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VICC leaders active in new Cancer Moonshot recommendations

Sep. 9, 2016, 11:37 AM

As part of the national Cancer Moonshot initiative, a Blue Ribbon Panel (BRP) of cancer leaders, including Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) director Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D., has delivered a series of recommendations to accelerate the pace of cancer prevention efforts and scientific discovery.

The BRP recommended 10 scientific approaches most likely to make a decade’s worth of progress against cancer in five years.

The BRP’s report was delivered Sept. 7 to the National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB) whose members voted to accept the recommendations with some revisions. The National Cancer Institute’s acting director also accepted the recommendations.

Pietenpol was one of four VICC leaders involved in this initiative to accelerate progress against the disease, which will claim nearly 600,000 lives in the United States this year. She was among 28 scientific experts, industry and academic cancer leaders and patient advocates on the BRP and served as co-leader of a working group on Precision, Prevention and Early Detection. She is a previous member of the NCAB.

Scott Hiebert, Ph.D., Hortense B. Ingram Professor of Cancer Research and associate director of Basic Research and of Shared Resources at VICC, was recently appointed by President Obama to serve on the NCAB and voted in favor of the recommendations.

Mia Levy, M.D., Ph.D., Ingram Assistant Professor of Cancer Research and director of Cancer Health Informatics and Strategy, served on the BRP Enhanced Data Sharing Working Group.

Daniel Liebler, Ph.D., Ingram Professor of Cancer Research, served on the BRP Tumor Evolution and Progression Working Group.

The Blue Ribbon Panel held listening sessions, collaborated with multiple stakeholders and considered 1600 public submissions before distilling their ideas.

“Our mandate was to consider the universe of bold possibilities, then to think broadly and strategically about the approaches that were likely to produce meaningful and tangible progress in an accelerated time frame of five years,” said Pietenpol, who also serves as executive vice president for Research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Members of the NCAB discussed the problem of disparities in cancer incidence, detection and treatment, as well as the need for new federal funding for the initiatives.

“These recommendations cut across disciplines and address crucially important issues like scientific discovery to better understand the mechanisms that lead to resistance to therapy, differences between adult and pediatric cancer, and data sharing at a national level,” said Hiebert, professor of Biochemistry and associate professor of Medicine.

The 10 recommendations are to:

  • Engage patients to contribute their tumor profile data to expand knowledge about which therapies work in specific populations;
  • Establish a cancer immunotherapy clinical trials network;
  • Identify therapeutic targets to overcome drug resistance;
  • Create a national ecosystem for sharing and analyzing cancer data;
  • Improve the understanding of fusion oncoproteins in pediatric cancer;
  • Accelerate the development of guidelines for monitoring and management of patient symptoms to minimize side effects of therapy;
  • Reduce cancer risk and health disparities through prevention strategies;
  • Predict response to treatments through retrospective analysis of patient specimens;
  • Create 3-D maps of human tumor evolution to document the evolution from a precancerous lesion to advanced cancer; and
  • Develop new cancer technologies to characterize tumors and test therapies.

In addition to the 10 approaches, the scientific road map includes some demonstration projects: enhanced testing for Lynch syndrome, an inherited condition that increases the risk for several cancers; the establishment of a nationwide pediatric immunotherapy clinical trials network; and a project focused on the pipeline of emergent therapies with the goal of improving precision therapy.

The entire report can be viewed at

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