Cancer and clinical trials in the spotlight

March is still the month where we put extra attention on cancer, but the landscape is different in a pandemic

Mar 02, 2021
Jeffrey Bouley
Cancer and clinical trials in the spotlight

It’s been pretty consistent for a long time now at this magazine that you will see two things in our March issue: A Special Report or Focus Feature on cancer and a preview of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting. As I thought back to last year’s March issue, I recalled that we had a full section previewing the upcoming 2020 AACR show—and yet, that show never happened.

I mean, it did take place in a two-part virtual format weeks later than it was supposed to take place physically, all thanks to that novel coronavirus we’ve been dealing with for more than a year now—but it didn’t take place as planned. It is one of those reminders of just how optimistic most of us were in 2020 and how much things have changed. Other meetings had delayed their plans or canceled but AACR, like so many others, continued to take a wait-and-see approach, and so we had full preview coverage in this magazine of an event that never actually brought the cancer research community together in person.

After scary but containable and manageable infectious disease scares in previous years, we had found ourselves in a full-blown pandemic, and March was the month it became clear to me that probably for the rest of the year, at least, we would see annual meeting plans—and the planned coverage of them—fall like dominoes.

Here we are, in March 2021, and no one is even stacking the dominoes for physical meetings anymore for the events we covered in the past. We have continued to cover the virtual events, but without a big show drawing lots of people, there isn’t as much to preview, and so our coverage has constricted accordingly.

I don’t know when we will see large physical gatherings become a thing again—I don’t even know if we should expect it to become a common thing again once the pandemic is finally over. But in the meantime, the virtual events still play an important role, and you can find a little about the AACR virtual meeting in our cancer-themed Focus Feature in this issue, where you can also read about some recent advances in women’s cancer care and get some insight on what’s driving the oncology manufacturing market. In our Diagnostics R&D section this issue, you can also find out about a  new theranostics approach for cancer.

And for a non-cancer feature, we have a Special Report on clinical trials, wherein we talk about how the very pandemic that has taken down all those in-person scientific conference plans also exposed weaknesses within the clinical trials process. Author Randall C Willis gives you a look at some of the thinking and technology behind recent shifts in this area, including a move to digital and decentralized trials.

Thanks again for being a reader, and maybe I’ll see some of you one day at a conference that isn’t on a monitor.

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