In 2016, the Obama administration announced it intended to fund a new research initiative aimed at curing cancer. The cancer “moonshot,” as it was called, generated much fanfare and inspired new hope for research breakthroughs to come. But for the U.S. to deliver on that goal, a fundamental shift in how research is conducted and care is provided would be required, according to a report published today in the Lancet Oncology.
Two UCLA cancer research pioneers, Dr. Patricia Ganz and Roshan Bastani, are among the 54 scientists who make up the Lancet Oncology Commission, which authored the report. The paper presents out a detailed roadmap and measurable goals for how the cancer research community can best focus the $2 billion that was released to the National Cancer Institute as part of the 21st Century Cures Act.
“Unlimited funding does not guarantee better long-term outcomes for patients, and how we allocate our resources is crucial to the future of cancer research and treatment,” said Ganz, director of control prevention and research at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. “The moonshot initiative provides an extraordinary opportunity and this report provides the framework for the global cancer community to meet its ambitious goals.”
Ganz, an internationally renowned advocate for improving the quality of cancer care from prevention through survivorship, said a key priority of the report is addressing long-term health care needs of patients during and after treatment.
More than 1.6 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer annually, and 600,000 people will die from the disease this year. There are about 15.5 million Americans who have survived cancer, many of whom remain in urgent need of supportive care to manage their long-term symptoms.
Ganz said the report highlights how advances like greater adoption of big data and an improved ability to understand and map pre-cancer biology will be critical to furthering research and improving patient care. Recommendations in the paper include a new model for drug discovery and development, vast expansion of patients’ access to clinical trials and more targeted screening to detect cancer in its earliest stages.
Although treatment results have improved tremendously over the past few decades, great disparities remain in the incidence of cancer and in treatment and outcomes based on patients’ race, ethnicity and socioeconomic background.
The report maps out specific strategies for mitigating those disparities in care, and for breaking away from the predominantly one-size-fits-all approaches for preventing and treating cancer, said Bastani, the Jonsson Cancer Center’s director of disparities research.
“The report emphasizes the importance of addressing health disparities in all recommendations, which is essential to ensure equitable access that is financially sustainable for the individual and society,” she said. “For example, precision public health approaches applied to available prevention and early detection strategies, such as cancer screening, have enormous potential for improving the cancer outcomes of underserved groups of people.”
Ganz and Bastani hope the new report will help researchers, institutions and philanthropists prioritize their efforts and accelerate meaningful clinical advances over the next decade.
The Lancet commission will present its report Nov. 3 at a United Nations Association of New York dinner, where former Vice President Joe Biden will be honored for his work on the moonshot initiative.