“It is now possible for science to conquer cancer and its reputation as an incurable disease is starting to disappear”. This is the optimistic and forceful view that Joan Massagué shared with OpenMind in the book Frontiers of Knowledge in 2008. It is also the first sentence of his article Towards an Understanding of Cancer, where he examines the myths, forecasts and major challenges in the fight against this disease.
Five years later, Joan Massagué, a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award winner in Biomedicine in 2008, has been chosen as director of the Sloan-Kettering Institute in New York, the most scientific arm of one of the leading medical institutions in cancer research: the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC).
The Spanish researcher thus becomes one of the leading figures in the fight against cancer, a battle that according to official figures released by the WHO will cost 13.1 million lives in 2030. This is no doubt a race against the clock that Joan Massagué knows very well since in 1978 he earned his PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Barcelona and a few years later, in 1989, he joined the New York institution he will be heading as scientific director in January 2014.
“Working in close cooperation, scientists and doctors can generate and apply the knowledge needed to turn cancer into another chronic disease in the coming decades.” This is the closing message of Joan Massagué’s article in OpenMind, expressing a wish that, we hope, will soon become a reality. An excellent opportunity to do so will start in 2014. Massagué takes the initiative at one of the institutions that is best prepared to lead this battle against cancer.