A Formidable Foe: Cancer in the 21st Century

February 28, 2017


It has been called “The Emperor of All Maladies.” A scourge familiar to the ancient Egyptians that still elicits fear. The foe: cancer.

The last century saw enormous progress in our understanding of cancer biology as well as prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. Yet, while cancer mortality rates have been steadily declining in the United States, enormous challenges remain in understanding and treating cancer. The decline in cancer death rates is slowing and some cancers still remain largely incurable.

Our improved understanding of cancer has uncovered many new questions about this broad collection of diseases. Can different cancers be reclassified? Can the body’s own immune system be harnessed to aid in the fight? Are the newest treatments and technologies scalable to all cancers or are they “one-hit wonders” destined to help comparatively few patients?

In 2016, President Obama announced a new “Cancer Moonshot” with a goal of, in the words of Vice President Biden, “fundamentally chang[ing] the trajectory” of how our society and world understands and combats cancer. America’s research universities and academic medical centers are critical to this effort.

Join Penn President Amy Gutmann and a distinguished panel for a discussion of the past, present, and future of cancer research and treatment. What progress has been made in the fight against cancer? What are the most difficult questions and challenges ahead? What is the role of leading universities and academic medical centers like Penn in overturning the tyranny of this “emperor of all maladies”?

Penn: University of Pennsylvania

The David and Lyn Silfen University Forum series was generously endowed by the late University Trustee David M. Silfen and his wife Lyn to foster conversation and debate regarding important contemporary issues.

Amy Gutmann is President of the University of Pennsylvania and Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Professor of Communication.