Local Cancer Expert Hopeful Federal "Moonshot" Effort Will Work
A local cancer expert says he's hopeful about the new "Moonshot" initiative to find a cure. But Ohio State University Cancer Center director Michael Caligiuri says it's important to remember cancer is not a single disease.
President Obama has appointed Vice President Joe Biden to head a presidential task force. Biden lost his son Beau to brain cancer last year. Biden says the effort will help break down barriers in the medical world holding back progress on eradicating the disease. Biden has described a system in which competition, territorialism and "stove-piping" of information leave researchers and their discoveries cloistered in their own corners. Biden says in addition to pushing for more funding, he will use his influence to "break down silos" he says are pervasive throughout the sprawling and fragmented world of cancer. His campaign this year will work to encourage more data-sharing about patient data and treatment outcomes. A key focus will be promising advances such as immunotherapy. One aspect involes a patient's immune cells being engineered outside of their body to hunt for tumors, then being infused back into the patient's body. The White House says 250 patients have been treated with the approach, with early promising results. Caligiuri says the cause of cancer is known, so the next logical step is this major push.
He says the "Moonshot" initiative will try to make a quantum leap on the path to a cure. Cancer strikes one million Americans each year. Survival rates for most cancers are increasing, although the American Cancer Society still predicts nearly 1.7 million new cancer cases this year and nearly 600 thousand deaths.