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ASCO is the largest cancer conference in the world

The American Cancer Society’s Dr Len Lichtenfeld has written a summary of his thoughts about the recent ASCO conference, which we mentioned earlier this week, for the CNBC website.

Despite several promising results – including some from our own researchers – it sounds like the mood at the conference was tempered by the reality of the challenge posed by the disease. Researchers are realising more than ever before that there are no short cuts on the road to beating cancer, and that we have a tough journey ahead of us:

“The sad reality is that patience remains a virtue. Whereas we thought that we were on the express train, we are finding that roadblocks abound. There are those who will be successful in navigating the journey, who develop new systems and approaches to dealing with these opportunities. But it isn’t going to be the rapid slew of miracles that we were anticipating just a few short years ago.

In a sense, it is bringing many of us back to Earth in our thinking and expectations. There is no “quick fix” for cancer, no clear spot of light at the end of the tunnel. This cautious realization that this part of the fight against cancer is going to take more time than we thought is more fitting with the research results we are learning about at ASCO 2010.”

But Dr Len thinks there is hope on the horizon, in the form of stratified (‘personalised’) medicine – an area that Cancer Research UK is investing in:

“Our researchers will continue discovering more complexities in cancer cells and provide more opportunities to develop new therapies. They will continue to uncover markers in cancers that will assist doctors in understanding how a particular patient’s cancer will behave and what type of treatment, if any, is needed. These markers will help offer guidance on which drugs will work in which situations.”

You can read his full account here.