In his January 2016 State of the Union address, President Obama unveiled the Cancer Moonshot 2020 project, the most comprehensive cancer initiative in decades. Led by Vice President Joe Biden, the project’s aim is to develop new ways to fight cancer (with a special focus on immunotherapy, genomics and precision medicine), bringing together the resources of leading researchers and pharmaceutical companies. The program includes a $264 million increase in funding for the National Cancer Institute, and will initiate randomized Phase II trials in over 20,000 patients at all stages of disease within the next 36 months. The ultimate goal is simple: make a decade’s worth of progress by the year 2020.
While some have argued over semantics, support for the initiative has been extraordinary, with 9 in 10 Americans supporting increased funding for cancer research. This kind of support is nearly unheard of for any initiative in our increasingly polarized political climate. How will proponents of Moonshot keep this momentum going forward? They’ll need to focus on two areas: collaboration and communication.
In addition to focusing on new methods to fight cancer, Moonshot aims to create a new era of collaboration. Silos of years past will be broken down in order to accelerate the progress of cancer research. Simply learning to work together may seem easy on the surface, but there are several barriers to a truly collaborative environment.
At Forte, we’ve always been vocal proponents of standardization within clinical research. However, research data is not currently standardized across platforms and institutions, and researchers will need to put forth serious effort to organize the myriad data that exists across the industry. As scientists begin to narrow their focus in a specific area, efficiently leveraging this data is imperative. True collaboration and standardization will lead to more accessible data, reduced duplication of efforts and continued progress toward better cancer treatment.
Boosting Patient Recruitment
Another focus of Moonshot is to increase patient collaboration and participation in clinical research. According to ASCO, only about 5% of cancer patients participate in clinical trials. Patients cite several barriers toward their involvement, from lack of awareness to high costs to fear of receiving a placebo. As a response to this, the Preparatory Education About Clinical Trials (PREACT) educational program was developed with support from the National Cancer Institute. The program’s goal is to more effectively educate prospective subjects before a physician approaches them to participate in a study. Researchers have found that educating patients can lead to a significant increase in participation. Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine found that the PREACT program led to a 21% enrollment rate in their studies. This increase is not just integral to progress in cancer research, but could also potentially save the lives of the subjects themselves.
To learn more about improving patient recruitment for your trials, download our free eBook Patient Recruitment in Clinical Trials: Steps to Develop a Successful Enrollment Strategy.
Those that have responded negatively to the Moonshot initiative tend to focus on the presentation of the program itself. By using the term “moonshot” and aiming to “end cancer,” the initiative’s leaders are potentially overselling the realistic goals of the project. We’ve known for years that cancer isn’t one static disease, but many different diseases that can be fought in many ways. This rhetoric may have been necessary to initially get the American public on board, but realistic expectations need to be set for the future in order to ensure sustained public support and keep cancer research moving forward to 2020 and beyond.
Learn more about the value of institutional collaboration from members of Forte’s Onsemble Community: “How Community Can Foster Advancements in Clinical Research”