AACR Annual Report 2020

Left to right: Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc); Elaine R. Mardis, PhD, FAACR; Antoni Ribas, MD, PhD, FAACR

Dear Colleagues and Friends of the AACR:

We are pleased to present the 2020 Annual Report of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). The report highlights the AACR’s progress over the past year in support of our mission—to prevent and cure all cancers through research, education, communication, collaboration, research funding, and science policy and advocacy—despite unprecedented challenges faced this year.

The theme of the AACR Annual Meeting 2020, “Turning Science into Lifesaving Care,” is also the theme of this report. The report outlines all the ways in which AACR programs and initiatives support the efforts of investigators from the laboratory to the clinic to improve the lives of cancer patients.
In 2020, our commitment to lifesaving care went beyond cancer patients, as the cancer community and the rest of the world confronted the COVID-19 pandemic. As the viral outbreak forced the shutdown of laboratories and restricted access to clinics around the world, it became clear that the AACR’s ability to achieve our important goals in 2020 would depend on our ability to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.

The AACR in 2020: Mission-Driven Through It All

Fortunately, the cancer research community was well equipped to address the challenges of COVID-19, for decades of research on diagnostic techniques, targeted therapies, and vaccines for cancer proved to be applicable to this new threat to public health. The AACR fostered collaboration in this critical area. We immediately established a COVID-19 and Cancer Task Force, which organized the first virtual conference to explore the intersection between the biology and treatment of cancer and that of COVID-19, and we hosted forums to inform and empower patient advocates and cancer survivors impacted by the pandemic.
At the same time, the AACR relied on its tradition of discovery science and innovation to address the disruption to cancer science and medicine caused by COVID-19. More than 20 scientific conferences and workshops were converted to virtual format—including a two-part Annual Meeting that set the standard for future virtual scientific meetings, welcoming more than 80,000 unique attendees from 141 countries. Other AACR initiatives also continued virtually in 2020, including outreach to survivors and patients, fundraising to support research grants, and advocacy for federal funding for biomedical science pertaining to all human diseases through the first-ever virtual Rally for Medical Research.
While addressing the critical challenges of the pandemic, the AACR also relied on its tradition of leadership to accelerate new progress against cancer in 2020. AACR Project GENIE announced two data releases during the year, increasing the size of this international pan-cancer registry to nearly 96,000 sequenced tumors from 100 major cancer types. We also released the inaugural AACR Cancer Disparities Progress Report, a first-of-its-kind report that highlights progress in addressing the challenges of cancer health disparities and calls for continued research and collaboration to achieve the bold vision of health equity. This AACR record of leadership in science was showcased in October, when AACR Fellows Emmanuelle Charpentier, PhD, and Jennifer A. Doudna, PhD, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing the CRISPR/Cas9 genome-editing system. This marks the third consecutive year in which AACR members (and Fellows of the AACR Academy) were awarded a Nobel Prize in a scientific field.
Drawing upon our tradition of resilience, the AACR persevered to lead the cancer research community through a tumultuous year in 2020. However, as the threat of COVID-19 begins to recede, our 47,000 members representing academia, government, industry, and patient advocacy groups—with the generous support of our individual, nonprofit, and corporate partners—remain laser focused on translating cutting-edge science into improved cancer care and prevention. More efforts will be dedicated to educational programs and to today’s exciting scientific areas– tumor evolution, early detection and cancer interception, convergence science, data science, precision medicine, immunotherapy, precision combination therapies, and cancer disparities research, among others– with a steady eye toward innovation and collaboration that will lead to markedly reducing cancer incidence, morbidity, and mortality.

Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc)
AACR Chief Executive Officer

Elaine R. Mardis, PhD, FAACR
AACR President 2019–2020

Antoni Ribas, MD, PhD, FAACR
AACR President 2020–2021