At this time of year, I have traditionally laid out my New Year’s resolutions in this editorial. Goodness knows, I need to focus on some things and try to be a better person! But this year, I will spare you that saga. Instead, I will give you a glimpse of what 2024 has in store for me and for JNCCN.
First, I will be turning over my role as Editor-in-Chief to my successor and I suspect this “Oncology Watch” feature will introduce that lucky individual in the coming months. This is a wonderful position, and I have enjoyed it so much. Most of our important metrics like our impact factor demonstrate that the journal has gained stature under my tenure, and I am very proud of that. Other journal changes include increasing green initiatives and building a more robust digital presence. To that end, we’re moving some articles in each issue from print to exclusively digital, and 2 issues, January and June, will be exclusively digital, on JNCCN.org.
Meanwhile, what will I do with my time? Well, first of all, after 40 years in the academic trenches, I have decided to take a long overdue sabbatical. At UCSF, a sabbatical does not mean resting on your laurels, eating bonbons, and watching clouds float by. Quite the contrary. You must embark on a project that benefits your academic career AND the institution. But yes, you do get to give up any activities you want to shed—teaching, administration, committee work, and such—and you can do your project anywhere.
I thought long and hard about my project. As you may know, I have focused on pancreatic cancer almost my entire career. This relentless and deadly disease is rarely diagnosed early and that has always been one of my biggest frustrations. Happily, new technologic advances may change this picture. Multi-cancer detection approaches such as blood-based biomarkers and AI-assisted MRI combined with disease-focused biomarkers in blood or urine just might do it. Could I somehow come up with a novel screening strategy using a rational application of technology?
Pondering this, I realized that I had to broaden my vision. Theoretically, these approaches can detect cancer at multiple sites, and anyone embarking on this project would need to address this. I also realized that some of these tests are already being marketed directly to patients, and cancer centers should be prepared to help patients navigate this and to develop a responsible and rationale way of using these new technologies. After all, false-positive tests or diagnosing cancers that really don’t need treatment can cause real harm.
After discussing this concept with leadership here, I now find myself leading the Cancer Early Detection Initiative (CEDI) at UCSF. It’s exciting and scary at the same time. I will need every minute of that sabbatical to ramp myself up for this! Fortunately, I am surrounded by amazing scientists and clinical experts who will advise me and keep me from going too far afield.
So please wish me luck with this new effort. I need it! And to my loyal readers, I have been so touched by your notes and comments over the years. They have meant a lot to me. Thank you!