Richard Nixon’s most famous legacy is being the only American president to ever resign.
What’s less known is how the Yorba Linda native kick started a national movement nicknamed “the war on cancer” in 1971, when he signed the National Cancer Act that established the National Cancer Institute.
Since then, the federal government has funded billions of dollars in research.
In honor of that legacy, the City of Hope Orange County sponsored a two-day discussion at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda.
Other major cancer researchers from the area also pitched in as sponsors, including the Hoag Family Cancer Institute, UCI Health and Children Hospital of Orange County.
“President Nixon would be astounded to know that today we can celebrate 18 million cancer survivors in the United States,” Annette Walker, president of City of Hope Orange County, said at the event’s opening.
“We are making new discoveries and translating these findings into treatments every day.”
The third annual Nixon National Cancer Conference brought together about 400 cancer experts on Jan. 17-18.
A who’s who of cancer research appeared at the event, such as Dr. Clifford Hudis, chief executive of the American Society of Clinical Oncology; Dr. Douglas Lowy, principal deputy director of the National Cancer Institute; and Julie Gerberding, CEO of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.
Also chipping in as a sponsor was the prestigious University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, whose president, Dr. Peter Pisters, made a presentation.
Prominent OC experts on cancer in attendance included Dr. Edward Kim, physician-in-chief at the City of Hope Orange County; Dr. Sourat Darabi, director of Precision Oncology for Hoag’s Center for Applied Genomic Technologies at the Hoag Family Cancer Institute; Dr. Edward Nelson, chief hematology/oncology professor at UCI; and Dr. Lilibeth Torno, chief of pediatric oncology at CHOC.
Dr. William W. Li, the New York Times bestselling author of “Eat to Beat Disease,” was presented the inaugural Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach Award, named after the former director of the National Cancer Institute and the Food and Drug Administration.
Li is also chief executive of the Massachusetts-based The Angiogenesis Foundation, which aims to disrupt disease through angiogenesis, the process the body uses to grow new blood vessels. It advocates angiogenesis-based medicine, diet and lifestyle.
“My common denominator approach to disease was very much at odds” with typical medical research, Li told the audience.
“It’s turned out to be more successful than I imagined. Since 1994, the year I co-founded The Angiogenesis Foundation, we’ve seen the successful development of more than 40 FDA-approved innovative treatments for cancer, to prevent vision loss and to heal diabetics wounds. These breakthroughs are transforming lives today.”
Among panel highlights were discussions on:
• Artificial intelligence, which is quickly changing healthcare and standardizing data collection and will help researchers develop tools to battle cancer.
• Cancer research, which has evolved from searching for one magic bullet to cure cancer to many magic bullets. An individualized therapy method of delivering the right medicine to the right person at the right time has made inroads in successfully battling cancer.
• Gut microbiome, which plays an important role in whether a person may develop cancer, treatment response and possible recurrence.
• Cancer treatment, which has evolved to think beyond targeting a tumor to get to root causes. Food as medicine approach needs to be an established part of cancer care.
• Multidisciplinary approach, such as bringing together scientific researchers with engineers, which should be utilized to improve patient care.