Last month, a Blue Ribbon Panel encompassing some of the nation’s top cancer experts delivered a report to the National Cancer Advisory Board of the National Cancer Institute, identifying 10 scientific approaches most likely to make a decade’s worth of progress against cancer in 5 years.1
Appointed last April to advise the National Cancer Moonshot initiative being directed by Vice President Joe Biden, the 28-member panel includes cancer researchers, oncologists, patient advocates, and representatives from both the private sector and government agencies. The panel was supported by 150 members of seven working groups, each of which was asked to recommend two or three opportunities that could lead to significant breakthroughs in cancer research. After “extensive deliberations” the Blue Ribbon Panel consolidated the working groups’ input into the set of 10 recommendations incorporated into its report. According to the report:
The 10 recommendations defined a number of areas of underlying emphasis. Among them were the importance of direct patient engagement in cancer research and of expanding clinical trials, the need to address disparities in access to cancer healthcare, the importance of data sharing to generate large datasets that can be analyzed to advance our understanding of cancer for better therapy, and the need for a national infrastructure to link data repositories and support data sharing and collaboration.
The 10 recommendations identified by the panel are:
- 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.
- Identify therapeutic targets to overcome drug resistance 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.
- Improve our understanding of fusion oncoproteins in pediatric cancer and use new preclinical models to develop inhibitors that target them.
- 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.
- Predict response to standard treatments through retrospective analysis of patient specimens.
- Create dynamic 3-D 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.
Along the way to executing its mission, the Cancer Moonshot is expected to produce two additional reports this fall—one from the Cancer Moonshot Task Force and one from Vice President Biden.
Although clinical lab testing will be essential for achieving many of the panel’s recommendations—as suggested by the report’s emphasis on the importance of patient data, routine monitoring, and the analysis of patient specimens—the report does not include specific goals for supporting the development of advanced cancer diagnostics. Perhaps one of the Cancer Moonshot reports still to come will do a better job of focusing on the singular importance of testing for advancing both cancer research and patient care.
Chief Editor, CLP
- Cancer Moonshot: Blue Ribbon Panel Report, 2016 [draft]. Washington, DC: National Cancer Institute, 2016. Available at: www.cancer.gov/research/key-initiatives/moonshot-cancer-initiative/blue-ribbon-panel/blue-ribbon-panel-report-2016.pdf. Accessed September 8, 2016.