The Cancer Moonshot initiative, which was recently renamed "Cancer Breakthroughs 2020," is a combined effort from the federal government and the private sector to boost cancer research through 2020. Led by former-Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, the program provides funding for research in the fields of immunotherapy, molecular science, supercomputing and genomic sequencing.
In December 2016, Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act, which granted an additional $1.8 billion over seven years to fund the program. Dr. Soon-Shiong has contributed a substantial personal investment as well.
Although government support for the project was finalized only months ago, some progress has already been made, especially in the realm of genomic research.
The Cancer Moonshot project was rocketed into the public consciousness when former-Vice President Joe Biden received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor. According to The Washington Post, Biden's son Beau died of brain cancer in 2015, a tragedy that sparked Biden's interest in promoting cancer research.
Recent project milestones include:
- More genomic data available to researchers: In September 2016, the National Cancer Institute partnered with the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. As part of the partnership, the MMRF donated the genomic data of 30,000 cancer patients to the Genomic Data Commons, a publicly available database.
- The Department of Defense gets involved: In October 2016, the White House reported that the DoD would launch a longitudinal study to improve precision oncology. The study hopes to pinpoint environmental factors which may contribute to certain types of cancer.
- A new drug formulary: In January, the National Cancer Institute launched a new drug formulary which gives cancer researchers access to approved and investigational agents for use in preclinical trials. The hope is that this increased access will speed up the development of new cancer-fighting drugs.
What this means for oncology nurses
Improved funding for cancer research will have benefits for many medical professionals. For oncology nurses, it could mean seeing new treatments for cancer within the next several years. Organizations may also see benefits from big data solutions which can analyze massive amounts of genomic data in a relatively short time.
According to the Oncology Nursing Society, nurses have an important role to play in driving cancer research forward. Nurses will play a critical role in conducting the clinical trials to come. While researchers spend much of their time in labs, it's up to oncology nurses to promote healing at the human level – something that should never be neglected.