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Cancer Moonshot Progress: Obama and Biden’s Project Setting Goals, Starting Research

Cancer Moonshot Progress: Obama and Biden’s Project Setting Goals, Starting Research

Straight Talk about Mesothelioma, a blog series created by Michael T. Milano, M.D., Ph.D., a radiation oncology specialist, as a resource for mesothelioma patients and their loved ones.

The Cancer Moonshot project was announced in 2016, an initiative spearheaded by former President Obama and Vice-President Biden. The goal of this project was to increase cancer research, develop a wider variety of options for treatment, and study ways to find cancer at earlier stages. The Cancer Moonshot project also created the National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB) to lead these efforts.

In December 2016, Congress allotted $1.8 Billion over seven years to fund the Cancer Moonshot as part of the 21st Century Cures Act. When Obama signed the Act into law, he stated, “We are bringing to reality the possibility of new breakthroughs to some of the biggest health challenges of our time.”

Setting Research Goals

One important component of the Cancer Moonshot project was the creation of Blue Ribbon Panel (BRP). This board is composed of individuals who are experts in their scientific and medical fields, and it acts to advise the NCAB. The BRP created working groups to develop goals for the Cancer Moonshot agenda, and they presented this report in September 2016. Their plan included:

  • Developing ways to allow patients to contribute to research. By collecting patient information about various cancers, doctors can better understand the kinds of treatments that work, and the patients in which these treatments are effective.
  • Creating a network to study immunotherapy, including why it works well for some patients and not others.
  • Researching causes of childhood cancers more intensively to develop better treatments for these cancers.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) used these recommendations to develop research programs that could be started quickly with existing funding, or funding from the 21st Century Cures Act. One example, the Partnership for Accelerating Cancer Therapies (PACT) was started by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and 11 pharmaceutical companies working on a joint venture. As part of this project, the NIH has given out grants to start four Cancer Immune Monitoring and Analysis Centers, and a Cancer Immunologic Data Commons.

Continuing to Plan the Agenda

The NCI has also organized Cancer Moonshot teams to develop ways of advancing the priorities identified by the BRP. These teams are devising plans that focus not only on research goals, but how to fund those initiatives. The groups will also consider when it is most helpful to form partnerships with universities, private companies, and foundations.

The NCI has also posted several funding opportunities for projects that are in line with the goals of the Cancer Moonshot project. Currently they are seeking teams to collaborate on researching childhood cancers, immunotherapy, and early detection of cancers.

While cancer takes many forms, from deadly mesothelioma to childhood leukemia, the focused efforts of the Cancer Moonshot project have demonstrated their potential to provide critical research data for years to come.

Dr. Milano is a sponsored contributor to Mesothelioma Help Now.