The Cancer Moonshot 2020 Initiative began over a year ago at the hands of former President Barack Obama. At his final State of the Union address in January 2016 the President called on his Vice President, Joe Biden, to lead the country in finding a cure for cancer once and for all.
Even after the billions of dollars that have gone into research up to half of American men and one third of all American women will receive a cancer diagnosis in their lifetimes – this initiative hopes to put an end to that. The goal of the initiative is to achieve a decades worth of progress in five short years.
The purpose of the Cancer Moonshot is to remove the red tape that has been a barrier to entry for researchers for years. The major tool that is facilitating this initiative and the collaboration that is imperative to solving the cancer crisis is technology.
The initiatives major breakthrough is The National Cancer Institute’s Genomic Data Commons (GDC). This will allow mainstreamed accessibility to clinical trials for more patients, and easier access to the results or data of those trials for doctors, scientists and researchers so they can make better informed decisions about future treatment plans. The ease of access to this data will save precious time for the cancer patients – especially those with rare types of cancer such as mesothelioma. The cancer affects approximately 3,000 people annually. With smaller numbers than other forms of cancers, the data collected in every clinical trial is crucial towards advancements in care.
While better organization of data can streamline the process for doctors and their patients the moonshot is allowing for further research into emerging therapies and diagnostic advances. One of these newer and less invasive diagnostic technologies is liquid biopsies. This could offer a less invasive alternative to standard biopsies. A simple blood test may one day replace a torturous bone marrow biopsy. A group of experts from all areas – academia, government, foundations, pharmaceutical and diagnostic companies – have taken up this mission as the “Blood Profiling Atlas.”
The collaboration that has come out of the Cancer Moonshot extends outside of the medical realm as well – both Amazon and Microsoft have been involved with the GDC. The two private sector corporations have agreed to host the genomic data in the cloud for the next several years at no cost. The cloud accessibility allows for easier sharing of information from any corner of the world – whether on the research level or even by a patient’s myriad of doctors.
The moonshot has also made more immediate patient impacts through the use of the ride sharing apps – Lyft and Uber. Both companies are parting with the Cancer Moonshot to support affordable, reliable medical transportation for cancer patients currently a quarter of patients miss or reschedule their appointments due to transportation troubles. Lyft will expand its current Boston trial to every city it currently operates in by 2020, and Uber will invest $5 million to improve its health-care-related and non-emergency medical transportation.
The Cancer Moonshot hopes to breathe more energy and awareness into the fight to end cancer.
“Every day, every minute matters to patients,” said Cancer Moonshot Co-chairs Joe and Jill Biden, “and we must bring that sense of urgency to our cancer research and care systems.”