Cancer Moonshot Initiative Update – Deborah K. Mayer, PhD, RN, AOCN, FAAN


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Deborah K. Mayer, PhD, RN, AOCN, FAAN, Professor and Director of Cancer Survivorship for the University of North Carolina, UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, along with twenty-seven others, was appointed to the Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel (BRP).  Deborah recently took a moment to share additional information with Registry Partners through a Q & A about the Cancer Moonshot Initiative and her involvement on the Blue Ribbon Panel.  

Q:  Please share with us the purpose of the Moonshot Initiative and your role with the task force?

A:  The White House charged Vice President Biden to accelerate progress in cancer including its prevention, early detection, treatment, and cure – in essence making 10 years progress in 5 years; which has included the following:  Improve patient access and care; Support greater access to new research, data, and computational capabilities; Encourage development of cancer treatments; Identify and address any unnecessary regulatory barriers and consider ways to expedite administrative reforms; Ensure optimal investment of federal resources; and identify opportunities to develop public–private partnerships.

It was an honor and privilege to be one of the 28 people appointed to the Blue Ribbon Panel (BRP) which was charged with making recommendations about transformative opportunities, that if adequately resourced, would make that acceleration possible. We had 3 co-chairs, Tyler Jacks, Dinah Singer, and Liz Jaffe, who were masterful in leading us in this endeavor. We were asked to identify no more than 10 recommendations for that purpose.

I was the only nurse on the panel. I felt I was representing and advocating for a number of groups — frontline providers and caregivers, survivors, palliative care, end-of-life … but we all bracketed our “special interests” to rise to the challenge of answering the question as a group, each of us bringing different knowledge and skills to the table. In the beginning, the BRP wanted recommendations that covered the whole cancer continuum.

The final report can be found here:  

The message to share with our patients and colleagues is one of hope and excitement but one that will also take the next few years to realize.

Q:  What areas were determined to be the focus after the subcommittees completed their review?

A:  The 10 recommendations for acceleration include:

  1. Establish a network for direct patient involvementEngage patients to contribute their comprehensive tumor profile data to expand knowledge about what therapies work, in whom, and in which types of cancer.
  2. Create a translational science network devoted exclusively to immunotherapy Establish a cancer immunotherapy network to discover why immunotherapy is effective in some patients but not in others.
  3. Develop ways to overcome cancer’s resistance to therapy Identify therapeutic targets to overcome drug resistance through studies that determine the mechanisms that lead cancer cells to become resistant to previously effective treatments.
  4. Build a national cancer data ecosystem Create a national ecosystem for sharing and analyzing cancer data so that researchers, clinicians and patients will be able to contribute data, which will facilitate efficient data analysis.
  5. Intensify research on the major drivers of childhood cancers Improve our understanding of fusion oncoproteins in pediatric cancer and use new preclinical models to develop inhibitors that target them.
  6. Minimize cancer treatment’s debilitating side effects Accelerate the development of guidelines for routine monitoring and management of patient-reported symptoms to minimize debilitating side effects of cancer and its treatment.
  7. Expand use of proven cancer prevention and early detection strategies Reduce cancer risk and cancer health disparities through approaches in development, testing and broad adoption of proven prevention strategies.
  8. Mine past patient data to predict future patient outcomes Predict response to standard treatments through retrospective analysis of patient specimens.
  9. Develop a 3D cancer atlas Create dynamic 3D maps of human tumor evolution to document the genetic lesions and cellular interactions of each tumor as it evolves from a precancerous lesion to advanced cancer.
  10. Develop new cancer technologies Develop new enabling cancer technologies to characterize tumors and test therapies.

The details for each of these recommendations can be found here.

Q:  What do you feel the implications are for Commission on Cancer Accredited Cancer Programs?

A:  Certainly, encouraging adults to participate in relevant clinical trials and other opportunities that may arise from this effort. Reviewing the reports and looking at the prevention and screening activities being conducted, especially for high risk individuals and their families, and initiatives regarding patient-reported outcomes and symptom management. Most importantly, staying tuned for funding opportunities that might be implemented in our programs and for reports from these initiatives. You can sign up for news about the Moonshot and the BRP here.

Our thanks to Deborah for this very helpful update!