Minnesota Cancer Moonshot Launched

MN Cancer Moonshot Conference- June 29

MN Cancer Moonshot Conference- June 29

On June 29th the University of Minnesota hosted the Minnesota version of the Federal Government’ s new Cancer Moonshot initiated by President Obama and headed up by Vice President Biden.  Over 50 Minnesota cancer related organizations attended the summit.  A great delegation of RIS Leaders attended including Board Member Dr. Larry Seymour.  Here are his comments:

The Conference was held in 140 places around the country and featured a television address by VP Biden. Vice President Biden had this idea after the death of his son due to brain cancer. President Obama featured it in a Rose Garden address in January. It is to pool the resources of pharmacology, biotechnology companies, academic centers and community oncologists with the stated goal of finding vaccine based immunotherapies against cancer. It is supposed to allow rapid testing of immune therapy protocols.

Our session started with a brief presentation by Eric Nesterbeek, CEO of Minnesota Masonic Charities who noted that the Masons had given over 100 million dollars to the University for cancer research over the years. That’s eye-openingly impressive. Dr. Jackson, Dean of the University Medical School, noted the National Cancer Act of 1971 passed during Richard Nixon’s tenure, failed over the years due to absence of expected results. Other panel speakers followed speaking of the prevention of cancer, (vaccination of teens against HPV {Human Papilloma Virus}), use of omega 3 fatty acids against esophageal cancer. Kris Rhodes a panelist from the Indian community spoke of the poorer results of education against smoking, and treatment in Indian communities. A questioner from the audience spoke of discrimination in this regard.

Break Out session

Break Out session

Dr. Verneris noted that children were different and could react differently to immune therapy. Dr. Ondrey noted the marked increase in HPV cervical and throat cancer in the past 20 years.

In the final session on clinical trials and patient advocacy, one speaker commented on the overwhelming task of finding relevant clinical trials. A nurse whose job it was to get permission from potential trial participants spoke of the 25 page permission form she had to go through with each patient. Susan Wolf, an attorney on the panel thought that was absurd, further said that a proper permission form should be one or two pages. She commented further on the difficulties of data sharing.

Ruth Bachman, a sarcoma survivor, RIS supporter, advocate, and Philanthropist provided a welcomed “Combined Perspective”

VP Biden’s message was his desire to see 10 years of results in 5 years, an “exponential” increase in research. His pitch was, in short, that of we put a lot of money into cancer research, good things would happen. Senators Klobuchar and Franken also had televised speeches at the conclusion.

A few comments.

1) It is naive to think of a single cure of cancer. In the last few years it has become increasingly obvious that there are many different types of cancer, with many types of genetic abnormalities in these cancers, and that approaches will need a multi- pronged effort.There is no magic bullet.

2) It is strange to call this a moonshot, using the analogy of the moon program.That was math and physics applied.This cancer thing is much more complicated.

3) More research means more Ph.D. educated basic scientists. Can we do that fast enough to get results in five years? no way.

4) continuing funding in the years to come will be necessary.Will the congress agree to that, or will it be part of the budget battle every year subject to fluctuations in the congressional will?

5) Finally this is a 1-billion-dollarprogram.I hope that a lot of good comes from it.

I note that sarcoma is one of the subjects to be looked at, but I forget specifically which. As one sarcoma scientist said a year or two ago, there is a lot of data, not so much wisdom.

Click here to see the detailed program of the MN Cancer Moonshot Summit.

For a Minnesota Public Radio interview with Dr Douglas Yee, head of the Masonic Cancer Center, click here.

Larry Seymour, MD, RIS Board Member