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The Cancer Community's Next Steps for the Moonshot Initiative

, by Dinah Singer, Ph.D.

Credit: iStock

At last week's annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, Vice President Biden's historic address to more than 4,000 researchers in attendance made clear that he and President Obama agree with many of us in the research community: We are at a critical juncture where the convergence of expanded knowledge and a more detailed understanding of cancer, the availability of advanced technologies, and a national commitment to collaborating in new ways has produced an unprecedented opportunity for rapidly accelerating progress against cancer.

Vice President Biden's National Cancer Moonshot Initiative is the catalyst that is intended to help us achieve that goal.

On May 10 at 5:00 p.m. ET, Dr. Singer and other Blue Ribbon Panel members will host a Google Hangout on how to submit ideas to the Cancer Research Ideas platform as well as the latest updates on the Blue Ribbon Panel’s activities. Details about the event are available on NCI's Social Media Events page.

The Blue Ribbon Panel Begins Its Work

The formation and early deliberations of the Moonshot Initiative’s Blue Ribbon Panel lays the scientific foundation for moving forward. As co-chair of the Blue Ribbon Panel, along with Tyler Jacks, Ph.D., director of the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, and Elizabeth Jaffee, M.D., of the Sydney Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University, I am gratified by the responses we have received from across the cancer research community, including from patients, researchers/clinicians, industry partners, and others with a strong interest in fighting the disease.

While the Moonshot Initiative is very broad, involving a number of federal agencies, academia, and the private sector, the Blue Ribbon Panel will focus on identifying scientific opportunities in cancer research that could produce major advances with additional emphasis and funding, and propose ways to overcome barriers to pursuing these opportunities.

The 28-member panel—composed of experts from a diverse array of scientific disciplines, cancer advocacy groups and industry—is a working group of NCI’s National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB). The panel’s work will inform and guide the initiative’s scientific direction, laying the groundwork for the cancer research efforts that will be funded under the Moonshot Initiative in the coming months and years.

Panel members met in person for the first time at the AACR meeting last week where they agreed to establish seven working groups that will address the following topics:

  • Expanding Clinical Trials
  • Enhanced Data Sharing
  • Immunotherapy and Immunoprevention
  • Implementation Science
  • Pediatric Cancers
  • Precision Prevention and Early Detection
  • Tumor Evolution and Progression

Each working group will involve an additional 10 to 12 leading experts who will help the group develop two to three recommendations for major opportunities that could lead to significant breakthroughs.

Give the Moonshot Panel Your Best Ideas

To help make it possible for the Blue Ribbon Panel working groups to consider the most promising science, NCI has created a website called Cancer Research Ideas where any member of the scientific community and general public can submit recommendations for accelerating progress against cancer.

The platform, which will remain open through July 1, represents another concentric circle beyond the Blue Ribbon Panel and its working groups to expand the number of voices directly involved in the Cancer Moonshot. NCI is collecting the ideas and delivering them to the Blue Ribbon Panel working groups on a weekly basis.

A Rapid Timeline

The Blue Ribbon Panel's timeline of events will be updated periodically on NCI's website.

Dinah Singer, Ph.D., Co-Chair, Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel NCI Acting Deputy Director

Credit: National Cancer Institute

The Blue Ribbon Panel will be working quickly to inform the Cancer Moonshot, finalizing and presenting the working group recommendations to the NCAB in late summer.

The NCAB will review the recommendations and send its report to the NCI director, who will, in turn, submit a final set of recommendations to the Cancer Moonshot Task Force by September 2016. The final recommendations for initiatives to be funded under the Moonshot will be announced to the cancer research community in early 2017, with funding being awarded in summer 2017.

Clearly there is a hunger for greater progress against cancer and a strong desire to make it happen. NCI is committed to help lead this effort and, in so doing, engage the community every step of the way.

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