Cancer ‘moonshot’ panel says immune therapies may be key

Dot Med Health Care Business Daily news – 9.9.16 by Thomas Dworetzky , Contributing Reporter

The Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel headed by Vice President Joe Biden has issued a draft report highlighting 10 key recommendations.

The moonshot effort was called an “enormous, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the cancer community and our nation to battle the disease,” by the panel’s co-chairs Tyler Jacks, Ph.D., director of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, Dr. Elizabeth Jaffee, professor and deputy director for translational research at the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Dinah Singer, Ph.D., acting deputy director, National Cancer Institute.

“We are truly at an inflection point for preventing and treating cancer, which is the result of decades of dedicated efforts to increase our knowledge and understanding of the more than 200 diseases called cancer,” Dr. Margaret Foti, chief executive officer of the American Association for Cancer Research, said in a separate statement about the panel report.

The report zeroes in on “a finite set of programs that are poised for acceleration, and that could unleash new cancer breakthroughs if implemented.” A number of them highlight the growing importance of big data in medical research and practice.

The panel’s recommendations include:

  • Engage patients to contribute their comprehensive tumor profile data to expand knowledge about what therapies work, in whom, and in which types of cancer.
  • Establish a cancer immunotherapy clinical trials network devoted exclusively to discovering and evaluating immunotherapy approaches.
  • Identify therapeutic targets to overcome drug resistance through studies that determine the mechanisms that lead cancer cells to become resistant to previously effective treatments.
  • Create a national ecosystem for sharing and analyzing cancer data so that researchers, clinicians, and patients will be able to contribute data, which will facilitate efficient data analysis.
  • Improve understanding of fusion oncoproteins in pediatric cancer and use new preclinical models to develop inhibitors that target them.
  • Accelerate the development of guidelines for routine monitoring and management of patient-reported symptoms to minimize debilitating side effects of cancer and its treatment.
  • Reduce cancer risk and cancer health disparities through approaches in development, testing and broad adoption of proven prevention strategies.
  • Predict response to standard treatments through retrospective analysis of patient specimens.
  • Create dynamic 3-D maps of human tumor evolution to document the genetic lesions and cellular interactions of each tumor as it evolves from a precancerous lesion to advanced cancer.
  • Develop new enabling cancer technologies to characterize tumors and test therapies.

The recommendations met with the support of many in the cancer field.”The recommendations that were announced today by the Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel are vitally important to accomplishing the goal of the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative, which is to achieve a decade’s worth of advances in five years,” AACR President, Dr. Nancy E. Davidson, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, said in a statement. “Therefore, the AACR calls on Congress and the administration to begin the work of finding a path forward for securing the funding necessary to support these significant scientific opportunities, which ultimately will make a major difference for cancer patients and their loved ones.”
The report comes at a time of ongoing budget conflicts in Congress, which some commentators noted. “The recommendations could significantly expedite our nation’s progress against cancer if implemented,” noted Dr. Daniel F. Hayes, president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

“For this to happen,” he added, “it is crucial that Congress provide the necessary funding to support the priority projects identified by the Blue Ribbon Panel and those we will hear about from the Task Force and vice president’s executive reports later this year.”

The Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed) applauded the panel for including recommendations on supporting the development of new cancer technologies to accelerate testing of therapies and characterization of tumors.

“The medical technology industry contributes roughly $2 billion annually to the R&D that is producing products and technologies that support the diagnosis and treatment of people living with cancer,” said Scott Whitaker, president and CEO of AdvaMed. “AdvaMed and AdvaMedDx member companies stand ready to support the recommendations by continuing to develop the much-⁠needed technologies necessary to improve cancer treatment and care,” Whitaker said.

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