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From the CEO’s Desk: The Cancer Moonshot is Ready for Liftoff

On Monday, October 17, 2016, the White House released the final report of theCancer Moonshot Task Force during a special event in Washington, D.C. The report consists of detailed findings and recommendations aimed at accelerating our understanding of cancer and its prevention, early detection, and treatment. As part of this report, the Vice President also unveiled a new set of federal, private sector and joint public–private actions to advance the goals of the Cancer Moonshot Task Force.

I was able to attend the event, as a member of the Moonshot’s Blue Ribbon Panel of experts, and digest how the Taskforce’s report – coupled with the report the Blue Ribbon Panel also delivered to Vice President Biden – will impact cancer, and especially brain tumor, patients.

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NBTS CEO, and Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel member, David Arons (left), with Blue Ribbon Panel Co-Chair Dr. Elizabeth Jaffe at the 2016 NBTS Scientific Summit

Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden, the Second Lady, spoke from the heart as parents about the losses in their lives due to cancer. They spoke about their son Beau Biden and that despite the fact that he was diagnosed with glioblastoma they did have hope. They also made the point that they believe science is truly on the cusp of dramatic progress against this disease because of the talent and tools that exist today that did not exist even five years ago – from supercomputing to genomics to immunotherapy. Vice President Biden and Greg Simon, Executive Director of the Task Force, said that whereas Nixon started the “war on cancer” with no strategy and no army, today the Moonshot has generated both and will benefit even further from the vast cross-section of researchers, clinicians, industry, government, and philanthropy that has coalesced from around the world to fight cancer.

Moving forward, the scientific recommendations by the Moonshot’s Blue Ribbon Panel and the ideas laid out in the Task Force report – together with the new partnerships and initiatives inspired by the Moonshot – will catalyze a new era of collaboration and innovation in technology and science to accelerate cancer research.

More than any other attribute, collaboration, is the single biggest outcome of the Moonshot thus far. With biopharmaceutical companies, government agencies and big online companies like Amazon and Google, as well as more traditional cancer players like hospitals, patient advocacy groups and universities working together in new ways, we can make progress not imagined or foreseen just a year ago. Just think how cool it would be if, thanks to all this collaboration, new devices and drugs could be developed that could easily cross the blood brain barrier and reach a brain tumor in exactly the right place, in exactly the right dose for the right patient, and that medicine resulted in dramatically extending that person’s life and leaving them with fewer side effects. Those are the challenges that the brain tumor community has always faced. And they are issues that could benefit from looking at cancer research and treatment in new, different and unique ways as will happen under the Moonshot, should it continue to be funded and implemented, and just like what NBTS is doing with our two “Defeatprograms, as well.

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David Arons (left) and NBTS Board Member, Carrie Treadwell (right), with Vice President Joseph Biden (center)

Finally, Vice President Biden and all the speakers, including the scientists, repeatedly said that at the center of all of this work must be the patient. As one of two patient advocates on the Moonshot’s Blue Ribbon Panel, this was a critical premise and subject of my role and responsibility – and I was encouraged at how this theme remained at the forefront of our – and the Task Force’s – work. And, indeed, this is already and important issue for NBTS in our efforts to defeat brain tumors for adults and children, as well.

The Moonshot Task Force report event was an important moment in the war on cancer, as it united everyone across the cancer community and provided a jumping-off point to begin moving forward with a new spirit to operate in and a “banner” under which we can all march together. Now we need to continue to advocate that the right appropriations are provided to the Moonshot going forward from Congress and future administrations – and NBTS will continue to play a leadership role in this effort.


For additional details, the full text of the Vice President’s Executive Report, the Cancer Moonshot Task Force Report, the Cancer Moonshot Fact Sheet, and the Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel Report, visit medium.com/cancer-moonshot.

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