The Cancer Moonshot: Validating the Work We Do Every Day and Energizing Us for the Future

The report released yesterday by the Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel, a group convened by Vice President Biden last winter, highlighted some big ideas and high-impact opportunities in oncology.

Some of these strategies build off of the major advances of the last decade, while others offer a fresh perspective on how scientists across the country can collaborate to chip away at frustrating barriers such as treatment resistance. The report not only validates the work we do every day at Roswell Park, but also inspires us with new ideas and strategies for reducing cancer’s impact on our lives.

Below are some of the key recommendations of the Panel and how we are already contributing to this work at Roswell Park.

Expand clinical research in immunotherapy.

Roswell Park’s Division of Translational Immuno-Oncology is one of the facilities leading this work internationally. Our faculty helped lead the studies that made many immunotherapies today’s standard of care. We currently have 38 immunotherapy trials in progress, including cancer vaccines developed at Roswell Park, and many more in the pipeline.

Expand the use of proven prevention and early detection strategies.

Roswell Park has a long history of championing preventive opportunities like the HPV vaccine, screenings like colonoscopy, and tobacco research and control, an area in which Roswell Park has been an international leader since the 1960s. Outreach to disparate communities is an ongoing effort at Roswell Park thanks to programs likes the Buffalo/Niagara Witness Project, which reach vulnerable and medically underserved populations that are least likely to take advantage of life-saving screenings and more likely to be diagnosed with cancer in the later stages. The report also calls for expanding information about genetic counseling and testing.

Collect and share data.

Building a national cancer data ecosystem to collect and share the massive amounts of patient data gleaned from new precision and personalized medicine technologies. Roswell Park pioneered the OmniSeq platform, one of the first advanced molecular profiling tools, an advanced diagnostic test that guides treatment choices according to the tumor’s unique genetic makeup. Collecting and sharing data from tests like OmniSeq nationally will speed identification of new therapeutic targets.

Mine past patient data to predict future outcomes.

The report calls for linking databases nationally and making them readily accessible to researchers. Roswell Park’s Data Bank and BioRepository (DBBR) is one of the oldest and largest such databanks. Newly diagnosed patients consent to donate blood and tumor specimens, complete questionnaires, and link their samples to clinical data. Additionally, non-patients, family and community members are included as healthy volunteers. Researchers around the world already use Roswell Park’s DBBR, and we’re eager to contribute to even more studies through the reach of the Cancer Moonshot.

Roswell Park has tremendous talent and tools to contribute to the Cancer Moonshot effort, and we’re energized by the momentum and ideas that have come from it in just a few months.