By Laurie Fenton Ambrose, President & CEO, Lung Cancer Alliance
You have probably heard the hopeful and aspiring words, “Cancer Moonshot” over these past few months. And for good reason.
It is the first time since 1971, when President Richard Nixon declared “War on Cancer”, that a national call to action has been launched to catalyze new scientific breakthroughs and galvanize innovative public – private partnerships to bring better treatments, access to care and ultimately cures to the cancer community. President Barack Obama, in his final State of the Union Address, put Vice President Joe Biden, who lost his son Beau to brain cancer in 2015, in charge of this new national effort to “end cancer as we know it”. President Obama made it clear that the goal of the Cancer Moonshot was to double the rate of progress toward a cure – in other words – cut in half the time it would take to make advances in cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care.
Under the auspices of the first-of-its-kind “Cancer Moonshot Task Force”, Vice President Biden has not wasted a moment in championing this endeavor. He has traveled the country – and overseas – to engage our global community in this life-saving effort. He has brought together every federal agency that has a part to play in the fight against cancer, along with hundreds of private, philanthropic, industry, and academic sectors, including the patient advocacy community, to talk about how we can make the most of our federal funding, research and data, technology capabilities, targeted incentives, private sector efforts, and patient engagement initiatives to break down barriers and accelerate progress.
The collective determination by so many people – at so many levels – at this very moment – focused on defeating cancer — is clearly unprecedented and extraordinary. But so is the fact that nearly everyone has been touched by cancer in some way – which is why we cannot slow what has been unleashed.
I had the great privilege of participating in the Cancer Moonshot Summit, held at Howard University in Washington, DC, as part of a national day of action that included more than 260 events in communities across the US. Over 350 researchers, oncologist and other care providers, data and technology experts, patients, families, and patient advocates participated in the dialogue.
The day began with a series of Cancer Moonshot Task Force announcements that featured initiatives highlighting new collaborations to advance the goals of the Task Force. LCA is an advocacy partner on one and many others announced that day which have relevance for our community.
During the Summit I received a special invitation. Lung Cancer Alliance was 1 of 20 organizations to meet specifically with Vice President Biden. This 1 ½ hour session allowed for a direct, robust and interactive discussion highlighting experiences, challenges, opportunities, and recommendations for the Vice President and his team to consider in advancing new cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care strategies. I spoke about the opportunity to link patient information, images and biomedical samples together among people being screened for lung cancer at early or pre-cancerous stages and how this could accelerate research.
It was a good day. It was an important day. Why? Because this day gave fuel to the Cancer Moonshot engine – further strengthening the momentum to “end cancer as we know it”.
We have reached for the moon before and succeeded in landing on its surface. I believe we can again reach for the stars and succeed in unlocking the mystery of cancer – and improve health outcomes for us all.