Cancer Moonshot Panel to Release Research Priorities in August

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By Jeannie Baumann

June 28 — An advisory panel's report to inform the White House cancer “moonshot” initiative's scientific direction will come out in August, the NCI's acting director said June 28.

Douglas R. Lowy, acting director of the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, said the report will include about six to 10 recommendations “in areas that are poised to make progress and to make faster progress as the result of the investment of funds.”

“These areas are in general going to essentially combine our current understanding of cancer and how it comes about with technical innovation and to put these two together to try to maximize outcomes,” Lowy said during a Capitol Hill briefing.

Cancer Moonshot Summit

Biden is expected to announce FDA ‘Centers for Excellence' to streamline disease-specific reviews among the drug, device and biologic centers during a June 29 summit.

The NIH in April announced formation of the blue ribbon panel to serve as the forum for public input while informing the scientific direction and goals of the moonshot initiative (10 LSLR 08, 4/15/16). The panel is a working group of the presidentially appointed NCI National Cancer Advisory Board.

Focus on Pediatric Cancers

The report also will include recommendations on research for children with cancer, Lowy said.

“It’s terrible to get cancer at any time,” Lowy said. “But developing cancer when you are so young and innocent is even more terrible. And we have a specific working group that is working on pediatric cancer.”

The blue ribbon panel is a different body from the cancer moonshot task force, which the White House appointed in January (10 LSLR 03, 2/5/16). The panel comprises scientists and other cancer experts who work outside the government; the task force consists entirely of government officials who represent agencies ranging from the NIH and the Food and Drug Administration to the departments of Energy and Commerce.

The cancer moonshot initiative, led by Vice President Joe Biden, seeks to accelerate the rate of progress in cancer treatments and prevention by making a decade's worth of advances in five years. Bloomberg Philanthropies provides financial support for the moonshot initiative (10 LSLR 02, 1/22/16).

Biden's Moonshot Summit

The briefing organized by the American Association for Cancer Research came one day before Biden was scheduled to hold a national cancer moonshot summit.

The Obama Administration will make a “major set of announcements” during the summit, FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf said June 28 during the Drug Information Association Conference in Philadelphia. Those announcements are expected to include the FDA creating a patient-centered “oncology center of excellence,” or an intercenter institute to coordinate activities among the agency's drug, device and biologic centers.

The House and Senate also are considering bills (S. 2700; H.R. 5414) that would establish these centers (10 LSLR 07, 4/1/16) (10 LSLR 13, 6/24/16)

Lowy said during the AACR briefing that the vice president's initiative has brought the cancer research community together in unprecedented ways.

“We have enormous optimism. Our patients are depending on our making progress,” Lowy said, adding that there are 600,000 cancer-related deaths each year in the U.S. “It is simply unacceptable.”

But he said progress will depend on contributions from cancer researchers, the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries and private philanthropy groups. He also made the case for research funding, saying that sustained funding for biomedical research is the “single most important thing” Congress can do to advance the goals of the moonshot initiative.

“We can and will make progress. This really absolutely is critical but we can’t do it without everyone's support, and that critical help comes from Congress,” he said.

—With assistance from Leslie A. Pappas in Philadelphia.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeannie Baumann in Washington

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Randy Kubetin

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