Leaders Make Collaboration Focus of Cancer Moonshot Summit

July 8, 2016
By: Alexis Kemp, Intern, DCI

Flanked by directors from UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, Michael B. Kastan, MD, PhD, makes opening remarks at last month’s Regional Cancer Moonshot Summit. Photos courtesy of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and Brian Strickland Photography.As a part of Vice President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Summit in Washington, DC last month, leaders from North Carolina’s three comprehensive cancer centers gathered at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to convene their own regional summit.

“The goal of the ‘moonshot’ is to propel us forward today,” said Biden in an impassioned live- stream appeal on June 29 to thousands of medical researchers, oncologists and other care providers across the U.S. whose support he seeks for his “moonshot” quest to cure cancer. “’Moonshot is all of you — we’re all here because we can do something about it.”

The fight against cancer is personal for Biden whose son, Beau, lost his battle with brain cancer just over a year ago. Following the death of Biden’s son, President Obama called on Biden to lead “mission control” on a “cancer moonshot” initiative. In response to that charge, laid out in Obama’s 2016 State of the Union speech, Biden began visiting cancer centers nationwide, including Duke Cancer Institute (DCI) in February for a round table discussion.

Biden’s “moonshot” includes doubling the rate of progress toward a cure; to achieve a decade of advances in cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care in five years. According to experts there are about 14 million new cancer cases worldwide, and over 8 million cancer-related deaths each year. Biden stated in his address that if there isn’t progress by 2025, there will be nearly 20 million new cancer cases and about 14 million deaths.

“Time matters, days matter, minutes matter,” said Biden.

Shelley Hwang, MD, MPH, shares with attendees at the June 29 Regional Cancer Moonshot. “The ‘Moonshot’ offers the opportunity for scientists to decisively impact this landscape, and to change the trajectory of cancer research and discovery for the next generations,” she said.He explained federal government initiatives and laid out his expectations for comprehensive cancer centers nationwide.

“We need to make treatments more affordable—the cost of life-saving drugs is astronomical,” he said. “We need to be sure that research is also available as soon as it’s published so the field can move forward. We have to generate and share integrated data for the ultimate goal of enhancing patient care.”

Biden went on to outline the need for a new prevention strategy and diagnostic therapeutics that patients can use across the world. “We can reach more people by taking screenings to their communities,” he said. “And finally, we have to accelerate getting treatments to patients by identifying any unnecessary regulatory barriers that exist at the federal level.”

Vice President Biden’s address was followed locally with updates on leading edge research at North Carolina’s three comprehensive cancer centers, including Duke Cancer Institute, UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s Comprehensive Cancer Center. Duke’s E. Shelley Hwang, MD, MPH, shared advances in breast cancer research and care. Michael B. Kastan, MD, PhD, executive director of DCI, gave opening remarks and responded to questions from the gallery while serving on the director’s panel.

“We’re making progress,” said Kastan before leaving the summit. “Today we’ve highlighted the extraordinary collaborations that go on between North Carolina’s three cancer centers and the opportunities that the ‘moonshot’ affords us as we take cancer prevention, cancer care and cancer follow-up to the next level.”

The directors’ panel included Kastan, Susan Braun, CEO, V Foundation for Cancer Research; Boris Pasche, MD, PhD, director, Wake Forest Baptists Medical Center’s Comprehensive Cancer Center; and regional summit host Norman E. Sharpless, MD, director, UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. Other speakers from the three cancer centers included Hwang, Lisa Carey, MD, UNC; Timothy S. Pardee, MD, PhD; Wake Forest; and Carl Fox, senior resident superior court judge, Orange and Chatham Counties and cancer survivor.

For more information about the “cancer moonshot” initiative, visit White House.