- The Obama administration has appointed 28 experts to a blue-ribbon committee for Vice President Joe Biden's Cancer Moonshot initiative. The committee is comprised of thought leaders in the areas of immunology, genomics, biology, diagnostics, bioinformatics, and prevention and treatment.
- Recommendations from the panel to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are expected by August, with a final report delivered to President Obama by December 31.
- The committee has three chairs: Tyler Jacks, a cancer biologist at MIT; Elizabeth Jaffee, an immunologist at Johns Hopkins University; and Dinah Singer, an acting deputy director of the National Cancer Institute.
The Cancer Moonshot initiative represents one of the most ambitious and complex efforts to find a cancer cure. However, this is not the first time the federal government has guided large-scale cancer initiatives. When President Richard Nixon signed the National Cancer Act into law in 1971, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) received an influx of federal funding.
The law gave the NCI money to establish 15 new cancer research centers, in addition to numerous local cancer-control programs and an international cancer research data bank. This significantly expanded the existing network of NCI cancer centers, which had been funded by the government since 1960.
The recently appointed blue-ribbon committee reads like a who's who in the world of oncology and cutting-edge medical research. Some of the appointees include Ellen Sigal, founder of Friends of Cancer Research; Patrick Soon-Shiong, a billionaire entrepreneur; Jeff Bluestone, executive vice chancellor at the University of California at San Francisco, and Mikael Dolsten, president of Pfizer Worldwide Research and Development.
In this week's lead editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), Doug Lowy, director of NCI, and Francis Collins, NIH director, wrote about the hurdles standing in the way of the moonshot goals. They outlined a 'to-do' list for fiscal year 2017 in areas where work is needed, including cancer vaccines, cancer diagnostics, single-cell genomic analysis, cancer immunotherapy, and pediatric cancer.
"Although key actions and deliverables remain a work in progress, one aim of this new initiative is certain: to inspire a new generation of American visionaries to defy the boundaries of current knowledge about cancer," Lowy and Collins wrote.
The creation of the blue-ribbon committee is another important step in this process.