The National Cancer Moonshot Summit: what are the key priorities?

The National Cancer Moonshot Summit is being held today in the US, and in this blog, I asked three of our Editors-in-Chief what they think are the main priorities in achieving the Moonshot goals. Why don't you let us know your thoughts too?

Cancer Ribbons_iStock Photo

Today, US Vice President Joe Biden is hosting a National Cancer Moonshot Summit in Washington. The Summit is part of the Cancer Moonshot initiative and brings together scientists, oncologists, industry experts, philanthropists, patients, survivors and advocates spanning the entire cancer community under the charge of doubling the rate of progress toward ending cancer as we know it.

Earlier this month, at the American Society for Clinical Oncology annual meeting, the Vice President gave a speech discussing the Moonshot. Two items that resonated with me were the Vice President’s emphasis on the need to break down barriers to progress by increasing access to information, promoting data sharing and facilitating collaborations. These are key elements of what BioMed Central stands for.

So in support of the Moonshot, and alongside the many other community summits taking place today, we wanted to bring together the community that exists around BioMed Central, and our journals, to discuss how cancer affects you, generate ideas about how individuals and organizations can engage in the Moonshot, and come up with ideas for new collaborations and actions.

To start the conversation we asked three of our Editors-in-Chief what they think are the key priorities to achieve the Cancer Moonshot and make a decade worth of advances in five years. Let us know your thoughts too by commenting below.

Pedro Romero, MD
Editor-in-Chief, Journal for Immunotherapy of Cancer

PedroRomeroThe fields of cancer immunology and immunotherapy have experienced a tremendous increase in attention and momentum in recent years, as evidenced by the latest approvals of immunotherapy-based cancer treatments and the promising results seen with an increasing number of cancer vaccines and cellular therapies.

These advances will be invaluable in enabling the Cancer Moonshot initiative to meet its goals of accelerating cancer research by making more therapies available to a greater number of patients while also improving the ability to prevent cancer and to detect it at an earlier stage.

In my opinion, the priorities of the Cancer Moonshot in the cancer immunotherapy area are as follows:

  • The discovery of predictive biomarkers to guide immunotherapy treatments to address the need to be able to identify those patient subsets that may benefit from immune checkpoint blockade therapy
  • Expedite clinical trials to explore the combinations of standard therapies and emerging immunotherapies that effectively and safely synergize for tumor control and eradication. Moreover, synergies between various modalities of immunotherapies also need to be found
  • Develop, optimize and benchmark effective therapeutic cancer vaccines
  • Educate the medical community in the management of new immunotherapies and the public about the advantages and limitations of immunotherapy
  • Health economics assessment of sustainable implementation of new and costly immunotherapies

Barbara Burtness, MD
Editor-in-Chief, Cancers of the Head & Neck

BarbaraBurtnessWe find ourselves at a time in cancer research when the unprecedented wealth of genomic data, novel insights into the role of the immune system in controlling cancer, and a rich pipeline of new systemic therapies are leading to dramatic improvements in survival even for patients with advanced disease.

The Moonshot focus on data sharing, immunotherapy combinations, pediatric cancers, and high risk/high reward research are all ideally suited to seize the day. What else will be needed for this work to have its maximum impact on the lives of cancer patients?

In other words, how well are scientific insights translated into better clinical standards of care, and then how often is that standard delivered?

Pharmaceutical companies often drive registration studies with the most novel agents, sometimes leading to massively parallel drug development, with several companies pursuing identical study designs with highly similar compounds, racing for the first approvals in a given indication.

In an alternate model, collaboration among industry, regulatory agencies, national cancer institutes and cooperative groups could invest these patient accruals across a greater diversity of trials, answering questions about optimal implementation of novel strategies, whether these are concerned with genomically targeted, immunologically active, combined modality or behavioral interventions.

More creative trials, and more rapid adoption of new paradigms, would be fostered if clinical testing of new ideas could be more easily undertaken.

More creative trials, and more rapid adoption of new paradigms, would be fostered if clinical testing of new ideas could be more easily undertaken.

It is to be hoped that the momentum generated by the first generation Moonshot initiatives in data sharing and immunotherapy will ultimately lead to increased activity across the spectrum of cancer research.

All of this is relevant in head and neck cancer. Head and neck cancer research will benefit from increased sophistication in pathway analysis of genomic data; immunotherapy is clearly active in this disease; as a less common cancer wise stewardship of clinical trials accruals is particularly important in our field.

Head and neck cancers also encompass entities with strong geographic links and in our field, as I believe across cancer research, international cooperation will be invaluable in accelerating this work. I write this blog post only shortly after Britain’s historic referendum on membership in the European Union, but with continued hope for collaboration with colleagues around the globe.

Delong Liu
Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Hematology & Oncology

delong-liuI think the key to the success of Cancer Moonshot project will rely on the following developments:

  • Broaden the development of cancer immunotherapy. In addition to enhancing the armamentarium of immune checkpoint blockers, CAR-T, bispecific antibodies, and natural killer cell activation are important modalities to add on.
  • Digging deeper into cancer genomics, establishing a library of single cell cancer genomics so that the fundamental pathway to carcinogenesis can be exposed.
  • Fundamentally change the way of cancer therapy. Turn non-curable cancer to a chronic disease, and place more weight on prevention and vaccination against cancer development.

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