Cancer Moonshot Plans Crystalize With 10 Recommendations

Zosia Chustecka

September 08, 2016

Plans for the US Cancer Moonshot became a little clearer yesterday, when the Blue Ribbon Panel of expert advisers issued a set of 10 recommendations for cancer research.

The Cancer Moonshot, headed by Vice-President Joe Biden, aims to make 10 years' worth of progress in cancer research within the next 5 years.

How to do just that is now outlined in the Blue Ribbon Panel report.

The panel's recommendations have been presented to the National Cancer Advisory Board, the advisor to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). However, how much of the research recommended by the panel will actually be carried out depends on how much funding is approved by Congress.

This is an enormous, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the cancer community. Dr Tyler Jacks, Dr Elizabeth Jaffee, Dr Dinah Singer

"This is an enormous, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the cancer community and our nation to come together around a single disease that touches everyone," co-chairs of the Blue Ribbon Panel write in an introduction to the report.

This report identifies "a finite set of programs that are poised for acceleration and that could unleash new cancer breakthroughs if implemented," they write.

The three cochairs are Tyler Jacks, PhD, director, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston; Elizabeth Jaffee, MD, professor and deputy director for translational research, Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland; and Dinah Singer, PhD, acting deputy director, National Cancer Institute, and director, Division of Cancer Biology, NCI, Bethesda, Maryland. The 28 members of the panel include cancer researchers, oncologists, patient advocates, and representatives from the private sector and government agencies.

The 10 Recommendations

The new recommendations for cancer research are outlined in an NCI document that also features videos showing panel members elaborating on the plans. The 10 points are summarized below:

  • Establish a network for direct patient involvement; engage patients to contribute their comprehensive tumor profile data to expand knowledge about what therapies work, in whom, and in which types of cancer.

  • Establish a cancer immunotherapy clinical trials network devoted exclusively to discovering and evaluating immunotherapy approaches.

  • Develop ways to overcome cancer's resistance to therapy, through studies that determine the mechanisms that lead cancer cells to become resistant to previously effective treatments.

  • Create a national ecosystem for sharing and analyzing cancer data so that researchers, clinicians, and patients will be able to contribute data, which will facilitate efficient data analysis.

  • Intensify research on the major drivers of childhood cancers; improve understanding of fusion oncoproteins in pediatric cancer and use new preclinical models to develop inhibitors that target them.

  • Minimize cancer treatment's debilitating side effects; accelerate the development of guidelines for routine monitoring and management of patient-reported symptoms to minimize debilitating side effects of cancer and its treatment.

  • Reduce cancer risk and cancer health disparities through approaches in development, testing, and broad adoption of proven prevention strategies.

  • Mine past patient data to predict future patient outcomes; predict response to standard treatments through retrospective analysis of patient specimens.

  • Create dynamic three-dimensional maps of human tumor evolution to document the genetic lesions and cellular interactions of each tumor as it evolves from a precancerous lesion to advanced cancer.

  • Develop new enabling cancer technologies to characterize tumors and test therapies.

Cancer societies were quick to respond with praise for the report. The American Association for Cancer Research said it "embraces" the new plan, and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) said it "applauds" what it describes as bold and ambitious recommendations.

"The recommendations could significantly expedite our nation's progress against cancer if implemented," ASCO President Daniel F. Hayes, MD, said in a statement. "For this to happen, it is crucial that Congress provide the necessary funding."

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