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The Cancer Moonshot Summit: Reaching New Heights

June 30, 2016, by Douglas R. Lowy, M.D.

Vice President Joe Biden addresses attendees of the Cancer Moonshot Summit held at Howard University.

Credit: White House

Yesterday, I attended the Cancer Moonshot Summit, hosted by Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden, held at Howard University in Washington, DC. In addition to this Summit, there were more than 250 regional summits happening simultaneously, making this truly a national event.

The summits were an opportunity for the Vice President to speak directly to the American public and ask them to “convene under the national charge of doubling the rate of progress toward ending cancer as we know it.”

And he did exactly that with his emotional opening remarks. “Days matter, minutes matter,” he said. “It’s about us not giving up hope and having the urgency of now.”

The Washington, DC, event brought together hundreds of leaders from across the health, academic, private, and philanthropic sectors, as well as survivors and patient advocates, to discuss the challenges facing cancer research and treatment, the barriers that are preventing us from accelerating progress against cancer, and new opportunities for advancing the field. As I sat among this diverse group, I was struck by a shared sense of purpose and strong desire to come together as a community behind the Vice President.

In his remarks, the Vice President recounted how, since the announcement of the Cancer Moonshot, he’s been stunned by the intensity of people’s feelings and their overwhelming desire to help. That intensity and commitment were reflected throughout the summit.

The White House’s encouragement of regional summits ensured that individuals from communities across the nation had a forum to voice what they see as priorities in cancer research and treatment, and ways for communities to contribute to the Cancer Moonshot. Leaders of the regional summits will be able to submit the ideas that emerged from their events to the Cancer Moonshot Task Force in the coming weeks.

The summit also provided a platform for highlighting seven NCI-related activities that were stimulated by the Cancer Moonshot’s call to action. These activities are representative of the kinds of initiatives envisioned under this historic program.

  • NCI is partnering with 20–30 pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to create a drug formulary that will expedite researchers’ access to promising investigational and approved drugs, allowing them to test these drugs in clinical trials for new purposes or in new combinations.
  • The Applied Proteogenomics OrganizationaL Learning and Outcomes (APOLLO) consortium is a new collaboration formed by NCI, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Veterans Affairs to routinely screen cancer patients for both genomic abnormalities and proteomic information to more precisely match their tumor types to targeted therapies than screening for genomic mutations alone.
  • Cancer.gov has a revamped clinical trials search function to make searching for cancer clinical trials easier. An application programming interface, or API, is being developed that advocacy groups, academia, and other third-party innovators can use to bring clinical trials information to more providers, patients, and their family members.
  • NCI and the Department of Energy (DOE) are partnering to bring together cancer researchers, care providers, computer scientists, and engineers to apply advanced supercomputing capabilities to analyze data from preclinical models in cancer and accelerate precision oncology.
  • NCI’s Genomic Data Commons (GDC) is now open for researchers to obtain raw, unprocessed genomic data from large research projects, along with associated clinical data, to use in their own research. And a new data-sharing agreement with Foundation Medicine, Inc. will more than double the amount of data in the GDC.
  • The NIH Partnership for Accelerating Cancer Therapies (PACT) is a public–private collaboration with 12 biopharmaceutical companies, multiple research foundations, philanthropies, and the Foundation for the NIH that will fund precompetitive cancer research and broadly share all data generated for further research. 
  • A new public–private partnership among NCI, DOE, and GlaxoSmithKline was formed to harness high-performance computing and diverse biological data to accelerate new drug discoveries.

Douglas R. Lowy, M.D.
Deputy Director, National Cancer Institute

I continue to be moved by the sense of excitement and opportunity emanating from the Vice President and the White House around the Cancer Moonshot, and the unprecedented optimism it has generated.

Together, we are following the Vice President’s charge to accelerate the pace of research and the advances it brings for our patients, our country, and the global community.

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