Taking Steps to Address Cancer: Training

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mendelsohn4.jpgLast year, MD Anderson President John Mendelsohn, M.D., proposed 10 steps that can be taken to ensure cancer deaths decrease more rapidly, the ranks of survivors swell, and an even greater number of cancers are prevented in the first place.

This is the fifth in a series of posts on key actions outlined by Mendelsohn:

5. Train providers of cancer care and future researchers.

As baby boomers retire, current shortages in the supply of physicians, nurses and technically trained support staff needed to provide expert care for patients with cancer are projected to increase. This problem will be further exacerbated in three years, when nearly 40 million individuals are added to the insurance rolls.

On top of this, cancer patient numbers are projected to increase due to the aging of our population. We are heading toward a "perfect storm" unless we ramp up our training programs for cancer professionals at all levels.

In addition, the pipeline for academic clinical and laboratory researchers in cancer is threatened today. We must designate more funding from the National Institutes of Health and other sources specifically for promising young investigators, to enable them to undergo the extensive training required and initiate their careers.

The average age at which a biomedical researcher receives his or her first R01 grant (the gold standard) now stands at 42 -- hardly an inducement to pursue this field. This shrinks the pipeline of talented young Americans who are interested in careers in science, but can find easier paths to more promising careers elsewhere.

Next: 6. Accelerate the pace and improve the efficacy of clinical research.

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