Posted: October 2017
When Margaret Foti began a job as an editorial assistant for the journal Cancer Research, with a communications degree and a fervor for the biological sciences, she could not have known then that she had just launched a remarkable, meaningful, and particularly impactful decades-long career. Just 4 years after her entry into the field, she became the youngest managing editor of Cancer Research, eventually moving up the ranks to chief executive officer of the journal’s publisher, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).
Serving as CEO since 1982, Dr. Foti, PhD, MD (hc), has helped AACR grow from 3,000 members to more than 38,000 laboratory, translational, and clinical researchers; population scientists; other healthcare professionals; and patient advocates working in 108 countries. The organization’s annual operating revenues have increased to $108 million, and its scientific events have blossomed from one annual meeting to more than 25 conferences and educational workshops yearly. AACR’s portfolio of peer-reviewed scientific journals also has increased—from one journal, Cancer Research, to eight, adding to the list Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention; Clinical Cancer Research; Molecular Cancer Therapeutics; Molecular Cancer Research; Cancer Prevention Research; Cancer Discovery; and Cancer Immunology Research. AACR also now publishes Cancer Today, a magazine for cancer patients, survivors, and their caregivers.
To further AACR’s mission, Dr. Foti has spurred numerous key partnerships with organizations that have similar goals, including the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC). Together, the associations present the Joint International Conference on Lung Cancer Translational Science: From the Bench to the Clinic. The fifth biennial event will take place January 8–11, 2018, in San Diego, California.
The partnership with IASLC is of major importance to AACR, Dr. Foti said. “With its focus on conquering lung cancer, both nationally and internally, IASLC is a powerhouse of scientists and physicians who are working to markedly reduce the burden of lung cancer. Through its partnership with IASLC, AACR wishes to work together to make even more inroads against this terrible disease.” Discussions are under way to increase AACR-IASLC collaborations in a number of areas, including joint meetings and other salient initiatives.
Limited research funding is one of the most significant challenges facing both organizations, Dr. Foti indicated, so AACR advocates for increased federal spending for cancer research and the related sciences. One of her major ongoing goals is to help incorporate cuttingedge cancer science and medicine into regulatory science and policy to accelerate drug development, drug approval, and clinical research as well as to ensure that the voices of cancer researchers, patients, survivors, and caregivers are heard on Capitol Hill. In 2007, AACR opened an office in Washington, DC, to lobby legislators on funding for scientific research. Dr. Foti said she is very proud of the work being accomplished there, at the society’s headquarters in Philadelphia, and at its other offices in Boston, Toronto, and Shanghai.
Her sister was treated 18 years ago for late-stage ovarian cancer at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia and “is alive today because
Dr. Foti also leads the AACR’s Scientific Partnership with Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), a charitable initiative that supports groundbreaking translational research aimed at getting new cancer treatments to patients more quickly. With SU2C’s Scientific Advisory Committee, AACR facilitates expert peer review, grants administration, and scientific oversight of various types of SU2C grants, including large team science grants (Dream Teams) and Innovative Research Grants to young investigators.
Among her accomplishments at AACR, Dr. Foti is most proud of the organization’s successful work in science policy at the national level, fundraising for cancer research through the AACR Foundation, and the scientific emphasis on drug development, translational research, and science-based clinical trials, all of which are making significant contributions to saving more lives from cancer. Dr. Foti has personal experience with how research can change the lives of cancer patients and their families and caregivers. Her sister was treated 18 years ago for late-stage ovarian cancer at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia and “is alive today because of the remarkable advances in cancer research,” she said.
In addition to serving on many boards in cancer research, civic service, and publishing, Dr. Foti has garnered numerous national and international honors and awards, most notably honorary degrees in medicine and surgery from the University of Rome La Sapienza and the University of Catania in Sicily as well as an honorary degree in medicine from the University CEU of San Pablo in Madrid. In 2007, she received the inaugural AACR award established in her name. The Margaret Foti Award for Leadership and Extraordinary Achievements in Cancer Research recognizes contributions to accelerating progress in cancer research, efforts that raise national or international awareness of cancer research, and other salient actions that demonstrate a sustained commitment to the conquest of cancer—much like the story of Dr. Foti’s career. ✦