Jay Leno talks with Brian Druker and other cancer experts about the promise of early detection

The inaugural Sondland-Durant Early Detection of Cancer Conference featured an appearance by comedian and television host Jay Leno. He led a discussion with Brian Druker, M.D., director of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, Sir Harpal Kumar, chief executive officer of Cancer Research UK, and Sanjiv Gambhir, M.D., Ph.D., a professor at Stanford University School of Medicine.

“It’s a fantastic time to be doing what we are doing in this field,” Kumar tells Leno during the interview. “It’s a terribly devastating disease. But the rate of progress we are seeing now is unprecedented. Whether it is the next 5 years, the next 10 years, or the next 20 years, we are seeing lives being transformed.”

“What is the most frustrating part of this?” Leno asks. “Is it the FDA, is it the paperwork?”

Druker’s answer: “As exciting as the times are, as fast as we are making progress, it’s frustrating that we are not making progress faster. Whatever we can do to accelerate progress, ultimately we want to save more lives. And the fact that we can’t do it right now is frustrating to me.”

Leno is fascinated with the prospect of technologies able to detect pre-cancerous changes anywhere in the body. “So early,” he says, “even the cells barely know that they have cancer, right?”

The most formidable challenge, Gambhir says, “is not just finding whether we have cancer early, but finding those cancers that will go on to hurt you. There may be many cancers that you won’t need to have intervention on. The challenge isn’t just about diagnosing them but the challenge is about what we call prognosis – figuring out the ones that are the nasty ones that you have to do something about.”

You can watch a replay of the session online.

The meeting brought many of the world’s leading scientists in the field of cancer early detection to Portland in June. It was the first of a series of international conferences planned by Cancer Research UK and the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. The two organizations formed a collaboration last year aiming to accelerate progress in early detection research.