PMWC News – Late Breaking Interview – The White House Cancer Moonshot in Limbo

An update on the Cancer Moonshot Initiative and more at the 11th PMWC 2017 Silicon Valley with 250+ speakers and 50+ sessions

While its creation was only announced earlier this year, with Vice President Joe Biden at the helm instilling hope and calling for action, the Cancer Moonshot may shockingly be nearing its end, as we know it. Uncertainties overshadow the future of this initiative as the White House Cancer Task Force is expected to exist in its current configuration only until the end of the Obama Administration, January 20, 2017.

Through a recent interview with Greg Simon, Executive Director of the White House Cancer Moonshot Task Force, PMWC has learned that he will not continue in that position beyond the current Administration. It’s unclear what the change in Administration and a Trump Presidency will mean, and what impact it will have on the initiative’s funding and goals, on the collaborations already initiated, and on specific projects already under way. Administration uncertainties aside, we unquestionably need to win the fight against cancer.

With the recent passage of the 21st Century Cures Act (Dec 13), the Cancer Moonshot program will receive $1.8 billion over seven years. This will allow funding of the Blue Ribbon Panel’s scientific priorities as well as other innovative projects through the NIH, the NCI and the FDA. But as noted above, without the Task Force solidly behind it, the program may look different and may change its goals or immediate directions. While future discussions may lead to a continuation of the formal effort, those discussions have not yet occurred.

The initial Task Force, as charged, delivered and published two reports before the end of 2016: the Task Force Report and the Blue Ribbon Panel Report chartered under the auspices of the National Cancer Institute to recommend scientific priorities. By January 19 of next year, the Cancer Moonshot will have launched a series of coordinated efforts that incentivize bold, creative, and disruptive approaches to conducting cancer research, promoting prevention and early screening, and addressing critical needs in cancer care. Communities, organizations, companies, patients, and researchers have taken up the challenge of the Cancer Moonshot with a vengeance that is expected to lead to accelerating progress in understanding and treating the many variations of this disease. Can we afford to have this all end?

“The key aspect of the Cancer Moonshot is that it is no longer just a government program, it is a movement.”What we do know is that on January 19, the agency and its initiatives begun under the Task Force will transition into the next Administration led by career officials with existing budgets and commitments. But the leadership of the agency efforts in the new Administration and the extension of the formal Cancer Moonshot program in the new Administration are yet to be addressed by the presidential team transition. We also understand private sector initiatives will, and of course can, continue unabated based on the scores of commitments in response to the Cancer Moonshot. While PMWC has learned that the Task Force Director Greg Simon’s employment will end on January 19 (he did not divulge future plans), he may stay involved in some functional role and assist Vice President Biden in promoting the goals of the Cancer Moonshot.

“Every aspect of the initiative needs to continue to make progress in the fight against cancer.”Simply ending an initiative like the Cancer Moonshot would represent a huge setback of what we have achieved so far. Greg Simon had some critical recommendations for the incoming Administration: continue with improving data sharing, working on data standards, improving patient recruitment for clinical trials, addressing disparities in cancer prevention and care, and developing new technologies and enhanced collaboration among all sectors of the cancer enterprise.

“It’s critical to continue the progress in the Precision Medicine Initiative and the Cancer Moonshot by building capacities in artificial intelligence and big data,” Greg Simon noted. “The new science of immunotherapy requires continued funding by the NCI as well as increased resources at the FDA to review the new approaches to clinical trials for targeted therapies. Community cancer care should be supported to address disparities in access to cancer prevention, diagnosis and care. Cancer centers should be required to share data in order to be designated as cancer centers. Government resources and data overall should be made more easily available to researchers. And patients’ rights to their data and medical records should be aggressively promoted and enforced.”

Greg Simon: “As the Administration changes we must remember that the Cancer Moonshot focused the nation and the world on our heightened ability to progress by changing the way we approach cancer research and treatment. The status of the formal effort is not nearly as important as the status of the movement it has engendered. And therein lies hope.”

Want to learn more? Then join us for PMWC 2017 on Jan. 22-25, 2017 at the Computer History Museum Silicon Valley, as this is your chance to get an update on the Cancer Moonshot Initiative, other government initiatives, and, of course, on a series of other relevant precision medicine topics that include, but are not limited to, immunotherapy, mHealth, CRISPR technology, microbiome, cancer diagnostics, value-based healthcare, data sharing, liquid biopsy, and new technologies.

Attending PMWC 2017 will allow you to meet leaders in precision medicine like Greg Simon and to hear and discuss what we need to do as a community to continue efforts that are critical to further adoption of precision medicine to improve health care. We have an exciting lineup of speakers in over 50 sessions that includes stakeholders from across the entire industry, including medical, pharma, research, government, regulatory, investment, and the commercial sector.

Robert M. Califf

FDA Commissioner

Claudia Williams

Former White House Office of Science & Tech Policy

Ronald A. DePinho

MD Anderson Cancer Center

Greg Simon

White House Cancer Moonshot Task Force

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