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Cancer Moonshot Initiative Releases Recommendations with Strong Data, Personalized Medicine Focus

September 8, 2016
by Rajiv Leventhal
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The Obama Administration’s Cancer Moonshot initiative now has recommendations for accelerating cancer research with the goal of making a decade’s worth of cancer research progress in five years.

The expert panel for Vice President Joe Biden, the head of the program, released a report this week describing a set of consequential recommendations for fast-tracking cancer research. The Blue Ribbon Panel (BRP)—consisting of cancer researchers, oncologists, patient advocates, and representatives from the private sector and government agencies—and its seven working groups were given a very important charge, according to the report: to assess where we are today and to imagine what could be done with the focus, support, coordination and infusion of funding that the Cancer Moonshot has promised.

As reported by Healthcare Informatics, during a speech at the Health Datapalooza conference in Washington, D.C. earlier this year, Biden tied the health data liberation movement to both the cancer moonshot effort he is charged with leading as well as his own son’s battle with cancer. “Today most cancer centers don’t have an easy way or motivation to share data,” he said. “We have to change this.” The vice president’s son, Beau Biden, died in 2015 from brain cancer. At the conference, Biden spoke passionately about both the current roadblocks to sharing data and the great potential to have significant breakthroughs in cancer research in the next few years, according to Healthcare Informatics Senior Contributing Editor David Raths.

Now, as outlined in the new report, the BRP established working groups with a concentration on seven different areas: clinical trials, enhanced data sharing, cancer immunology, implementation science, pediatric cancer, precision prevention and early detection, and tumor evolution and progression. Each working group was charged with nominating a few important research opportunities that are uniquely poised for acceleration. Each recommendation was expected to define the problem in the recommended research area; the challenges or barriers for advancement; why implementing the recommendation is important; and what it will achieve.

The report presents the BRP’s recommendations of the most compelling research opportunities that should be supported through the Cancer Moonshot, many of which have a health IT focus:

  • Network for direct patient engagement—Enlist direct patient engagement through a federated network where patients will be offered comprehensive tumor profiling.
  • Cancer immunotherapy clinical trials network—Organize a cancer immunotherapy clinical trials network, for both adult and pediatric cancers, that would develop and implement a national strategy to discover and evaluate novel immune-based approaches.
  • Therapeutic target identification to overcome drug resistance
  • A national cancer data ecosystem for sharing and analysis—Create a National Cancer Data Ecosystem to collect, share, and interconnect a broad array of large datasets so that researchers, clinicians, and patients will be able to both contribute and analyze data, facilitating discovery that will ultimately improve patient care and outcomes
  • Fusion oncoproteins in pediatric cancer— Integral to this is a coordinated research effort that will lead to the creation of new preclinical models of these pediatric cancers, the identification of their key dependencies, and the application of this knowledge to develop novel therapeutic approaches that target their mechanisms of action.
  • Symptom management research— Support research necessary to accelerate the development of guidelines for routine monitoring and management of patient-reported symptoms in all care settings, throughout the cancer continuum (from diagnosis throughout survivorship and at end-of-life) and tailored to differing patient and survivor needs.
  • Prevention and early detection: implementation of evidence-based approaches—Conduct implementation science research to accelerate development, testing, and broader adoption of proven cancer strategies to significantly reduce cancer risk and healthcare disparities.
  • Retrospective analysis of biospecimens from patients treated with standard of care Analyze acquired tumor samples from thousands of patients who have received standard treatments to develop hypotheses about which tumor features predict clinical benefit, treatment resistance, and other clinical outcomes. Once these categorizations are validated in clinical trials, they can be used to develop better risk stratification of cancers and allow tailored treatments to be developed for patients who are at high risk of relapse or who likely would not benefit from standard of care alone.
  • Generation of human tumor atlases—Create a dynamic three-dimensional map of the evolution of human tumors of all types, pediatric and adult, by documenting the genetic lesions and cellular interactions that guide the development of each tumor as it evolves.
  • Development of new enabling cancer technologies—Support the development of promising new technologies that will accelerate testing of therapies and characterization of tumors.
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