December 08, 2022
The Cancer Moonshot highlights new steps from Cancer Cabinet agencies and departments along with new actions and collaborations from the private sector during a Week of Action
When President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden reignited the Cancer Moonshot in February, they set ambitious, achievable goals: to reduce the death rate from cancer by at least 50% over the next 25 years, and improve the experience of people and families living with and surviving cancer, ultimately ending cancer as we know it today. They called for everyone to do their part including federal agencies and departments, private companies, health care providers, patient groups, philanthropies, and more.
In March, in his first State of the Union Address, President Biden highlighted the Cancer Moonshot as part of his Unity Agenda for the nation. The White House convened the first-ever Cancer Cabinet in March to establish a prioritized agenda across government. The Cancer Cabinet has identified priorities to (1) close the screening gap, (2) understand and address environmental exposure, (3) decrease the impact of preventable cancers, (4) bring cutting-edge research through the pipeline to patients and communities, and (5) support patients and caregivers. Throughout the year, Cancer Cabinet agencies and departments announced new programs, policies, and resources to meet these priority actions.
This week, the Cancer Cabinet is participating in a series of events and rollouts to feature additional progress as part of the Cancer Moonshot. Among other steps the Cancer Cabinet is taking to support Americans facing a cancer diagnosis, this includes:
- new resources from the Department of Labor to help people facing a cancer diagnosis and their caregivers understand their rights as employees;
- expansion of a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) program to expedite consideration of patents for innovations to detect and treat cancer; and
- the launch of a new trial to reveal best-practice approaches in liver cancer from the Department of Veterans Affairs, along with the kick off of a PACT Act Week of Action, sharing information with veterans about the benefits of the most significant expansion of VA Benefits and Health Care in 30 years.
These actions are just a few examples from the Cancer Cabinet to support Americans facing a cancer diagnosis.
The private sector has also responded to the President’s all-hands-on-deck call. This includes a new collaboration to share and analyze data in order to speed development of new therapies for pediatric brain cancers; grants to bring patient support and navigation programs to 20 additional health systems in Puerto Rico, Alabama, North Carolina, Utah, and elsewhere; a new partnership to bring at least 20,000 free nights of hotel stays to patients when the best cancer care is not close to home; and efforts to bring the promise of the latest breakthroughs in clinical trials, prevention, and cancer screening to communities and individuals all across the United States.
To add your story, ideas, or new actions and collaborations, engage with us at: whitehouse.gov/cancermoonshot.
New Actions taken by the Cancer Cabinet:
U.S. Department of Agriculture Launches Signature New Program to Advance Research and Implement Solutions at the Intersection of Nutrition and Disease
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced its new Agricultural Science Center of Excellence for Nutrition and Diet for Better Health (ASCEND for Better Health) in support of the cancer prevention goals of the Cancer Moonshot and as part of the President’s commitment to improved nutrition for the American people as laid out in the National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. This new virtual center will accelerate research on diet-related chronic diseases, including cancer, and aims to translate research into impactful solutions that improve public health and well-being. According to the World Cancer Research Fund, 30-50% of all cancer cases are preventable by following a healthy diet and lifestyle. This center will bring together essential resources and expertise to drive forward solutions that will benefit all Americans, with a focus on underserved communities.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Provide Updated Resource to Help Communities Identify Cancer Clusters
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry is releasing an updated resource: Guidelines for Examining Unusual Patterns of Cancer and Environmental Concerns, to help states as they investigate patterns of disease in communities. CDC will also release updated guidelines in accordance with the Trevor’s Law provision within the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. The updated guidelines place a greater emphasis on engaging and communicating with community members, recommend that health departments consider proactive evaluation of cancer registry data at regular intervals to look for unusual patterns of cancer, and replace the steps in earlier 2013 Guidelines with new detailed criteria to: address environmental concerns more broadly, and de-emphasize statistical significance as the primary criterion for evaluating potential exposures and cancer rates.
Department of Labor Delivers New Resources for Employees to Know Their Rights When Diagnosed with Cancer or Taking on a Caregiving Role
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) provides new resources for people facing cancer and their caregivers to know their rights as employees. These new tools for employees include a new DOL resource page on “Workplace Protections for Individuals Impacted by Cancer,” a practical guide on “How to Talk to Your Employer about Taking Time Off,” and an easy to apply flyer to help health care providers support Family and Medication Leave Act (FMLA) leave. This step recognizes that there are many questions Americans have when facing a cancer diagnosis that extend to their everyday life, like how to take the time away from work to receive treatment or care for a loved one.
Department of Veterans Affairs Announces Large-Scale Trial to Better Diagnosis Liver Cancer in Veterans
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will embark on a study to determine the most effective screening technique for liver cancer, a deadly cancer that can be cured if caught early. This is the largest clinical trial in history related to liver cancer screening. The study will determine whether detecting liver cancer earlier with abbreviated MRI can make a difference for patients’ risk of death. Better known as PREMIUM — PREventing Liver Cancer Mortality through Imaging with Ultrasound vs. MRI — the trial’s objective is to determine whether screening with abbreviated MRI is better than ultrasound, the current standard of care in reducing liver cancer deaths in veterans. VA’s Veterans Health Administration is the largest health care provider in the U.S. for patients with cirrhosis, a leading risk factor for liver cancer. Enrollment will begin in 2023 and follow participants over an eight-year period. This is the first clinical trial to compare the two screening methods for effect on patient outcomes.
Kick off to PACT Act Week of Action from the Department of Veterans Affairs
Senior leaders from across VA will spread out across the country to spread the word about new PACT Act related benefits and services for toxic exposed veterans. Under Secretary for Health of Veterans Affairs Dr. Shereef Elnahal will be in Montana on December 9 to host a veteran town hall to listen to veterans, amplify how the VA is understanding and addressing environmental exposures, and to encourage veterans with military-related toxic exposures to apply for benefits with the recent passage of the PACT Act. This townhall will launch the PACT Act Week of Action (December 10-17) where VA will be hosting over 90 events across the country to provide information on what this historic law could mean for veterans and their family members.
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Expedites Review of Cancer-Related Innovations Through New Cancer Moonshot Expedited Examination Pilot Program
To further accelerate innovations to combat cancer, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is announcing a new Cancer Moonshot Expedited Examination Pilot Program. Beginning on February 1, 2023, the new program expedites examination for a broad scope of qualifying technologies, including methods for detecting and treating cancer. The program permits patent applications in these areas to be advanced out of turn for examination and review. The new program builds on the success of and replaces the USPTO’s Cancer Immunotherapy Pilot Program, which was first implemented in 2016 and expedited examination for eligible patent applications pertaining to methods of treating a cancer using immunotherapy. Under this program, qualifying patent applications pertaining received accelerated review, cutting in half the time it takes to review patent applications pertaining to cancer immunotherapy.
Private Sector Response to President Biden’s Call to Action:
Supporting Patients and Caregivers through their Cancer Fight
- American Cancer Society and partners award nearly $6 million in multi-year grants for patient navigation programs to 20 health systems. American Cancer Society (ACS) is partnering with Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Bristol Myers Squibb, Daiichi Sankyo, and AstraZeneca toaddress barriers to timely, equitable cancer care across diverse geographies and demographics. A total of 14 healthcare systems have been awarded grants spanning Puerto Rico, Alabama, North Carolina, and Utah. The ideal outcome of the grants is to identify best practices that impact patient outcomes. Patient navigators help guide patients through the often-complicated health care system with the resources they need to get care.
- American Cancer Society and Extended Stay America are partnering to connect eligible cancer patients to free and reduced-rate hotels in more than 760 locations across the country, including a commitment of 20,000 free nights. The ACS accelerated their mission to improve the lives of cancer patients and their families through strategic partnerships with private industry. Lodging expenses present a significant financial barrier to receiving potentially lifesaving treatment, and financial barriers contribute to disparities in cancer outcomes. Working with Extended Stay America will help fill critical gaps and is aligned with the ACS mission to improve the lives of people with cancer and their families through advocacy, research, and patient support, to ensure everyone has an opportunity to prevent, detect, treat, and survive cancer.
Bringing Cancer Screening to More Communities
- BD Sciences, Genentech, National Football League, Merk, Novartis, Pfizer, AmerisourceBergen, and Intuitive have partnered with American Cancer Society and other sponsors to raise $30 million to expand and accelerate cancer screening. Through a comprehensive and multi-sector approach, ACS and partners mobilized the cancer community at the national and local level, including, primary care providers, coalitions, health care systems, and policymakers to increase access to cancer screening.
- Delaware Imaging Network Launches the Enhanced Breast Cancer Detection Program, Providing Women a New Solution Powered by Artificial Intelligence. The Delaware Imaging Network, a division of RadNet, Inc, announces the implementation of its new Enhanced Breast Cancer Detection (EBCD) service, which works in concert with a patient’s annual breast screening regimen. The new program is powered by leading-edge Artificial Intelligence (AI) focused on the early detection of breast cancer. The program delivers a suite of solutions that improve the level of accuracy in breast cancer screening. A pivotal study showed improved performance for all radiologists who used it. EBCD also includes an additional AI-driven review for suspicious exams and findings, an in-depth personalized lifetime risk assessment for breast cancer, and a dedicated 1-800 line for patient support.
- Philips, regional partners, and New York State help Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center bring mobile lung cancer screening to high-need communities. The communities around Buffalo and Niagara Falls, New York, are marked by unusually high rates of lung cancer incidence and death — with the greatest impact in communities of color and rural areas. While tens of thousands of western New Yorkers qualify for annual lung cancer screening to detect lung cancer at its earliest and most treatable stages due to their smoking history, occupational exposures to known carcinogens, or inherited genetic factors, less than 6% of those eligible for this noninvasive, pain-free imaging are getting screened as recommended. To address these stark realities, Buffalo-based Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, a freestanding National Cancer Institute-designated center for cancer care, research, and education, worked with local partners to make low-dose computed tomography (CT) screening easily accessible for those at highest risk for lung cancer. In collaboration with Philips, a global leader in health technology which includes diagnostic CT imaging equipment that fits inside a tractor-trailer, Roswell Park designed a mobile screening and outreach program known as Eddy — Early Detection Driven to You. The program brings evidence-based lung cancer early detection and education right into high-need urban and rural communities.
- The Skin Cancer Foundation (SCF) Commits to Providing Free Screening and Education for Early Detection and Prompt Treatment. Each summer, the SCF’s customized 38-foot RV, retrofitted with two private exam rooms, travels around the country with prescheduled stops. Local dermatologists volunteer their time to conduct full-body skin cancer screenings in each community, where event managers also distribute educational materials and sunscreen samples. Screenings and materials are free to anyone who visits, regardless of insurance coverage. About 65% of participants said they would not have been screened otherwise. In 2022, DHS has traveled 12,000+ miles and hosted 40 events in 24 cities. More than 7,500 attended and 1,414 were screened, identifying 513 suspected skin cancers and precancers.
Driving Research Advances through Data Sharing and Clinical Trial Expansion
- Amazon Web Services is expanding its partnership with the Children’s Brain Tumor Network to speed development of new therapies for pediatric brain cancers. Together, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and the Children’s Brain Tumor Network (CBTN)will enable researchers and clinicians to share and analyze medical record, imaging, genomic, and other data in near real-time. This work will kick off at three of CBTN’s primary clinical sites, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), Seattle Children’s Hospital, and University of California San Francisco, with the goal of expanding to other collaborating centers in the future. AWS and the CBTN are working to develop standards-based application programming interfaces (APIs) for automated feeds to transport Electronic Health Record data straight into the database and store it securely using the cloud. Using the cloud, the time it takes from new patient enrollment to their data being entered and analyzed in the database will be reduced from months to near real-time. This means newly diagnosed patients and their families get into the network of experts much faster, speeding up time to treatment options.
- Bristol Myers Squibb in collaboration with Disability Solutions launch the Disability Diversity in Clinical Trials (DDiCT) initiative. Current common clinical trial practices exclude up to one-fourth of the U.S. population based on disability status. This initiative which includes Disability Solutions, a U.S.-based non-profit organization that supports companies globally to achieve true disability inclusion, initially aims to make recommendations on how to effectively improve access, engagement, speed of enrollment, and participation of people with disabilities in clinical trials, to ensure all patient groups are reflective of the real-world population and aligned with the epidemiology of the disease studies.
- Exact Sciences launched a new health equity program to expand equitable access to early cancer detection and reduce barriers to cancer care. Exact Sciences launched the Funding Opportunities for Colorectal Cancer (CRC) Screening Uptake Strategies (FOCUS) program to provide grant funding to community organizations focused on addressing disparities to cancer screening access and care. Awardees are selected to implement evidence-based and informed intervention strategies proven to increase colorectal cancer screening rates. These include supporting the screening recovery after COVID-19, improving clinic practices to assist patients with the screening process, working with pharmacists to increase access to screening options, and enhancing patient navigation efforts. Eight Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) in Wisconsin, California, Arizona, New York, and New Jersey were selected in the initial round of funding.
- Friends of Cancer Research launches unique data-sharing partnership to accelerate the development of new cancer treatments through the ctMoniTR Project. Friends of Cancer Research initiated the ctDNA for Monitoring Treatment Response (ctMoniTR) Project to determine if changes in the amount of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) found in the bloodstream can accurately predict whether a drug is working. The project will aggregate data from over 20 retrospective clinical trials to rapidly investigate if changes in ctDNA can serve as an early indicator of response to different treatments and in multiple cancer types. Experts from the U.S Food and Drug Administration, National Institutes of Health, pharmaceutical and diagnostics companies, leading cancer research institutions, and patient advocates have developed an aligned approach to generate the necessary evidence in a way that is faster and more robust than if any one stakeholder attempted this alone.Validating the use of ctDNA as an early endpoint could help physicians and patients understand, in a less invasive way, if their therapy is working or if they should change treatments. This could also accelerate research by enabling rapid identification of new cancer medicines with anti-tumor effects and ultimately allow them to reach patients sooner.
- GRAIL launches Real-World Evidence Partnership to Provide America’s Veterans Access to Multi-Cancer Early Detection Testing. Cancer is the leading cause of illness and death for veterans with over a million veterans diagnosed with cancer through the Department of Veterans Affairs since last year. To expand efforts in cutting-edge early cancer detection, the VA along with the Veterans Health Foundation have partnered with GRAIL to provide veterans access to multi-cancer early detection blood tests as part of a clinical real-world evidence study. Starting at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, over the next three years 10,000 veterans will access these tests across the country. The multi-cancer early detection tests will be provided to veterans in addition to current recommended screenings for breast, cervical, colon, lung, and prostate cancers.
- Janssen Commits $5 Million in Grant Support to Stand Up to Cancer to Improve Health Equity in Cancer Clinical Trials. Improving diversity in clinical trials is critically important, especially in early development where medicines are initially studied in participants as part of the clinical development continuum, establishing safety, tolerability, and dosing. A new effort between the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson and Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), a charitable organization that promotes cancer research, is designed to increase diversity in Phase 1 and Phase 2 studies. Through the sponsorship, Janssen is supporting SU2C’s health equity efforts with a $5 million grant that includes funding for four regional research groups that will develop new sustainable, scalable, and replicable approaches to remove barriers to clinical trial participation for patients of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Bringing Together Expertise to Meet Cancer Moonshot Goals
- LANCET Oncology Launches a Reignited Cancer Moonshot Commission. Over the next 2 years, The Lancet Oncology will reconvene its Moonshot Commission with a new team of national and international experts to undertake a thorough analysis on how the Moonshot program, through the lens of global health, can create win-win opportunities to advance global oncology across the cancer continuum via leadership from the United States. This second installment of the Commission will investigate, in part, the cross-sector impact of domestic research funding, international research projects, and U.S. development aid on global oncology; the bilateral benefits of international partnerships and collaboration; COVID-19 recovery; soft diplomacy; cancer care for underserved populations nationally and internationally; the importance of the patient voice and advocacy; and the disruptive value of novel innovation, big data, and telemedicine. In 2017, the Lancet brought together more than 50 renowned American clinicians and academics to undertake a Commission that bolstered the existing Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel recommendations by developing a research action plan on priority areas including surgical oncology, radiation oncology, imaging, health systems and health disparities, regulation and financing, population science, and oncopolicy.