Progress Report on Cancer Moonshot Program


Cancer Moonshot: A Midpoint Progress Update

January 11, 2021, by Norman E. Sharpless, M.D., and Dinah Singer, Ph.D

NIH/National Cancer Institute

It’s hard to believe that 4 years have passed since the Cancer Moonshot℠ was “launched.” In December 2016, Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act, which authorized $1.8 billion in funding for the Cancer Moonshot over 7 years. Even though it is only at the midway point in terms of funding, we believe it is well on its way to producing meaningful improvements for people with cancer.

Supporters heralded the Cancer Moonshot as “an enormous, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the cancer community and our nation to come together around a single disease that touches everyone.”

The architects of the Moonshot articulated three ambitious goals for the Cancer Moonshot: to accelerate scientific discovery in cancer, foster greater collaboration, and improve the sharing of data.

As Congress was completing legislative action, NCI gathered a Blue Ribbon Panel to develop the scientific direction for the Cancer Moonshot and make recommendations for transformative research. Informing the deliberations were nearly 1,600 comments and ideas from stakeholders across the cancer community. Today, we see remarkable progress toward these goals and important changes in the culture of cancer research.


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  1. Mike, We now have immunotherapy techniques that do not torture the body with chemo and radiation. These drugs target the cancer and do not adversely affect the newly dividing cells of the body. We would have never achieved these without research. As a matter of fact, the same use of mRNA (discovered in the 60s) that has been employed in the fore runners for the COVID-19 vaccines has long been used in targeted cancer treatments with cancer vaccines for some cancers. The use of mRNA on these treatments and other treatments of other diseases is what gave Pfizer/BioNTech a head start on making the COVID-19 vaccine. Having anti-cancer therapies that target only the tumor or cancer cells is invaluable for the cancer patient as they do not experience the generalized annihilation of any fast dividing cell and thus do not have the adverse side effects of chemo. Whatever is causing rampant increases in cancer is irrelevant unless we can find what is doing that and stopping it. We do not have a very good track records on that issue. If we can find ways to successfully treat cancers of all types we can alleviate deaths. We cannot stand by and not develop more ways to get rid of it. If we can put ‘billions’ into defense of the country, which really is not going very well right now, we can spend money for the health of mankind.

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