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Oncology’s Moon Shot

A Houston hospital announces a $3 billion project to reduce deaths from eight cancers.
September 21, 2012

A large cancer research center in Texas announced today it will launch a “$3 billion fight” to reduce the death rates of eight cancers. The so-called Moon Shots program at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center will focus on forms of lung, prostate, ovarian, skin and blood cancers. According to the Houston Chronicle, the program follows a pledge last year by then-new MD Anderson president Ronald DePinho, who at the time said he wanted the hospital to develop a “bold and ambitious plan for curing several cancers.”

The Moon Shots program will include a focus on genomics to understand the genetic and molecular basis of cancers and to identify patient-specific treatments (for more information on these ideas, see “Cancer Genomics” and “Making Genomics Routine in Cancer Care”).  “Humanity urgently needs bold action to defeat cancer. I believe that we have many of the tools we need to pick the fight of the 21st century. Let’s focus our energies on approaching cancer comprehensively and systematically, with the precision of an engineer, always asking … ‘What can we do to directly impact patients?’” said DePinho in a released statement.

Chief medical and scientific adviser for the American Cancer Society Otis Brawley, who has previously called for a genomics-based approach to oncology (see “Cancer Medicine is Stuck in the Past”), welcomed the initiative. According to the Houston Chronicle:

“At a time when federal funding for cancer research is flat, I applaud any program that could improve morale and galvanize public support for cancer research,” said Brawley. “We’re at a time when we have new knowledge, but the only way we’re going to make dramatic progress is a large-scale concerted effort. If M.D. Anderson is the one to lead that effort, I’ll praise them for that.”

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