UK-US cancer summit aims to open collaborations to find faster cancer cures, combat disparities

November 30, 2021
outline of two heads with United States and United Kingdom flags inside them
The first U.K.-U.S. scientific summit brought cancer research experts together to discuss bilateral collaborative opportunities to improve cancer care and reduce disparities. Adobe Stock

An MUSC Hollings Cancer Center researcher attended the first U.K.-U.S. scientific summit, held virtually on Nov. 13 and 14. More than 60 leading experts in the cancer research community met during the summit to discuss bilateral collaborative opportunities to resolve barriers to progress and accelerate translational solutions to affect cancer care.

The summit was the first in a series of activities that will include industry roundtables, public forums and policy bilateral meetings that will help to shape and prioritize goals. Recommendations that emerged from the summit will be a topic of discussion between British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Joe Biden at a follow-on leaders’ summit in spring 2022.

Dr. Marvella Ford 
Dr. Marvella Ford

Marvella Ford, Ph.D., the associate director of Population Sciences and Cancer Disparities at Hollings, said it was an honor to have been invited by National Cancer Institute director Norman E. Sharpless, M.D., to participate in the cancer summit. “All of the attendees were among the top experts in their fields. It was great to participate to be able to illuminate the cancer disparities in the U.S. and U.K. and to develop a framework to reduce or potentially eliminate these disparities.”

Ford participated in a working group that focused on racial and socioeconomic disparities and outcomes. The meeting organizers will develop subsequent meetings with smaller groups to advance the ideas that were developed during the cancer summit, she said.

The scientific summit was a first step in developing a research and innovation roadmap for the U.K. and U.S. to provide international leadership in transforming life with cancer. Over the two days, attendees were challenged to explore:

  • How to realize the potential of prevention and early detection.
  • How to address unacceptable health inequalities.
  • How to unlock underlying disease mechanisms to inform progress in diagnosis and therapy development.
  • How to deliver faster and better new treatments and interventions.

Patient engagement was identified as a critical part of the process, targeting how best to improve access and participation in clinical trials as well as how to harness the power of health and biomedical data to transform lives.

Ford said the summit was a great success. “This was the first ever U.K.-U.S. cancer summit, so it was great to have experts from both countries meet together to discuss ways to work together to eliminate cancer as we know it,” she said, adding that she learned the countries shared similarities, as well as some differences in terms of access to clinical and population-level data.

“There are many opportunities for us to work together to improve our data collection and analysis strategies moving forward. The commitment to improving cancer health equity outcomes is shared by investigators on both sides of the pond, and I look forward to what we can accomplish by our collective perspectives and specialties.”