This is a companion article to the feature, “Clinical Labs and Diagnostics in Cancer Moonshot Initiatives.” 

At the beginning of April, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) announced the formation of a blue ribbon panel of scientific experts, cancer leaders, and patient advocates that will inform the scientific direction and goals at NCI of Vice President Joe Biden’s National Cancer Moonshot initiative. The panel will serve as a working group of the presidentially appointed National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB) and will provide scientific guidance from thought leaders in the cancer community.

US Vice President Joe Biden.

US Vice President Joe Biden.

“This blue ribbon panel will ensure that, as NIH allocates new resources through the Moonshot, decisions will be grounded in the best science,” said Biden. “I look forward to working with this panel and many others involved with the Moonshot to make unprecedented improvements in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer.”

Over the next several months, the panel will consider how to advance the themes that have been proposed for the initiative. The themes include the development of cancer vaccines, highly sensitive approaches to early detection, advances in immunotherapy and combination therapies, single-cell genomic profiling of cancer cells and cells in the tumor microenvironment, enhanced data sharing, and new approaches to the treatment of pediatric cancers.

In addition, the cancer community, including the American public, will be provided a forum to post comments and insights to help inform the panel’s deliberations. Findings of the panel will be reported to the NCAB, which in turn will make its recommendations to NCI and contribute to the overall approach of the initiative.

Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, National Institutes of Health.

Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, National Institutes of Health.

“Thanks to advances in science, we are now in a historically unique position to make profound improvements in the way we treat, detect, and prevent cancer,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD. “The Vice President’s deep personal commitment to this noble cause will make a tremendous difference in our ability to lift the terrible burden of cancer. His call to action, including the establishment of this panel, comes at just the right time for all the right reasons.”

Douglas Lowy, MD, National Cancer Institute.

Douglas Lowy, MD, National Cancer Institute.

“The Vice President’s enthusiasm about this effort is welcomed by the community of researchers, health professionals, and patients who share his passion and belief that great things are possible by accelerating cancer research with leadership and resources,” said NCI Acting Director Douglas Lowy, MD. “We are committed to breaking down silos and stimulating the groundbreaking work already underway. To be successful, we must hear a broad range of perspectives to take full advantage of the exceptional current opportunities in cancer research.”

The blue ribbon panel members represent a spectrum of scientific areas, including biology, immunology, genomics, diagnostics, bioinformatics, and cancer prevention and treatment. Scientific members also include investigators with expertise in clinical trials and cancer health disparities. Importantly, the members of cancer advocacy groups and pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies will be represented on the panel and its working groups. The members of the blue ribbon panel are:

Tyler Jacks, PhD (Cochair)
Chair, National Cancer Advisory Board, and Director, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Elizabeth Jaffee, MD (Cochair)
Professor and Deputy Director for Translational Research, Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Dinah Singer, PhD (Cochair)
Acting Deputy Director and Division of Cancer Biology Director, National Cancer Institute

Peter Adamson, MD
Professor and Director, Experimental Therapeutics in Oncology, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

James Allison, PhD
Professor and Chair of Immunology, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

David Arons, JD
Chief Executive Officer, National Brain Tumor Society

Mary Beckerle, PhD
CEO and Director, Huntsman Cancer Institute

Mitch Berger, MD
Professor and Chair, Department of Neurological Surgery, University of California, San Francisco

Jeff Bluestone, PhD 
AW and Mary Margaret Clausen Distinguished Professor, University of California, San Francisco

Mikael Dolsten, MD, PhD
President, Pfizer Worldwide Research and Development, and Executive Vice President, Pfizer Inc

James Downing, MD
President and CEO, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Levi Garraway, MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and Assistant Professor of Medicine, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Gad Getz, PhD
Director, Cancer Genome Computational Analysis and Institute Member, Broad Institute; Director, Bioinformatics Program, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Cancer Center; Associate Professor of Pathology, Harvard Medical School; Paul C. Zamecnik Chair in Oncology, MGH Cancer Center

Laurie Glimcher, MD
Professor of Medicine and Dean, Weill Cornell Medical College, and Incoming President and CEO, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Lifang Hou, MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine, Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Neal Kassell, MD
Professor of Neurosurgery, University of Virginia

Maria Elena Martinez, PhD
Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health, Reducing Cancer Disparities Program, University of California, San Diego, Moores Cancer Center

Deborah Mayer, PhD, RN
Professor of Adult and Geriatric Health, University of North Carolina School of Nursing, and Director of Cancer Survivorship, UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center

Edith Mitchell, MD, FACP
Professor of Medical Oncology and Associate Director for Diversity Services, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, Thomas Jefferson University

Augusto Ochoa, MD
Professor of Pediatrics and Director, Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center, Louisiana State University

Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD
Professor of Oncology, Professor of Biochemistry, and Director, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center

Angel Pizarro, MSE
Technical Business Development Manager, Amazon Web Services Scientific Computing and Research Computing

Barbara Rimer, DrPH
Alumni Distinguished Professor and Dean, University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health

Charles Sawyers, MD
Chair, Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Ellen Sigal, PhD
Founder and Chair, Friends of Cancer Research

Patrick Soon-Shiong, MBBCh
Founder, Chair, and CEO, NantWorks LLC

Chi Van Dang, MD, PhD
Professor of Medicine and Director, Abramson Cancer Center, University of Pennsylvania

Wai-Kwan Alfred Yung, MD
Professor of Neurooncology and holder of the Margaret and Ben Love Chair of Clinical Cancer Care, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

The NCAB will advise the NCI director based on its consideration of the blue ribbon panel’s recommendations, expected to be delivered later this summer. A final report by the National Cancer Moonshot task force chaired by Vice President Biden will be produced and delivered to President Obama by December 31, 2016.

To meet its milestones, the panel will begin its work immediately. The panel will also consider public comments over the next several months prior to making its recommendations.

Members of the research community and the public can engage in the initiative initially by subscribing to updates on the initiative’s main website ( or by e-mailing the panel at [email protected].