Dr. Douglas Lowy has been appointed acting director of the National Cancer Institute, a part of the National Institutes of Health.
Lowy, 72, has been deputy director of the NCI since July 2010. He's been a lab chief for the past 30 years, focusing his studies on genes that regulate abnormal growth.
Last year, President Barack Obama awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation to Lowy and John Schiller, another cancer scientist, for their work that led to the development of the human papillomavirus vaccine.The vaccine has been critical in the fight against cervical cancer.
Although the U.S. has made much progress in treating cancer, researchers face challenges in finding sustainable therapeutic interventions, Lowy said.
“One of the big challenges with cancer treatment is that cancer cells are remarkably plastic, they change,” Lowy said. “They're continually evolving, so even when our treatment works effectively on the short-term basis, we often end up with treatment resistance.”
Cancer deaths are down more than 20% over the past 20 years, but that rate of progress isn't satisfactory because hundreds of thousands of people still die from cancer every year, Lowy said.
“Some of the progress is in cancer prevention, some is in cancer screening and diagnosis, and some is in the area of cancer treatment,” Lowy said. “I would argue although this rate of progress is slower than all of us would hope, it really is progress on all of these fronts.”