Cancer Moonshot Initiative: 3 Things You Need to Know

Posted On Wednesday, 03 August 2016
Cancer Moonshot Initiative: 3 Things You Need to Know

In May 2015, Vice President Joe Biden lost his son Beau Biden to a fight against brain cancer.

He was only 46 years old, and had served as the Delaware attorney general, and also served in the Army National Guard.

Crushed by the loss of his eldest son, VP Biden responded shortly after with a nationwide initiative that will eventually help others battling cancer, and lessen the number of families suffering after the loss of a loved one.

The National Cancer Moonshot 2020 is an initiative that aims to change the way we see and deal with cancer. With additional efforts, a noteworthy budget, and all hands on deck by 2020, the initiative will be capable of moving mountains in terms of where we are in cancer research. Our nation will again be able to do things that we once thought were impossible… just like landing on the moon.

Collaboration Is Key

There is no way that we could see success in this initiative if it was one party, or one organization involved. The only way it can thrive is with every possible person collaborating, and contributing what they can to the effort. A handful of government agencies and departments will be involved, including but not limited to:

Department of Defense
Department of Commerce
Department of Energy
Department of Veteran’s Affairs
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
National Science Foundation (NSF)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)

These agencies and organizations will be extremely crucial in leading the charge with the Cancer Moonshot. However, it will not only be up to them. Doctors, nurses, caregivers, patients, researchers, and scientists are all encouraged to take part, along with any other person who has any insight or idea for the Cancer Moonshot. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do because your idea could help; whether it stems another idea, or maybe starts a discussion to lead to a breakthrough.

If you have any ideas please submit them on the White House website here.

Immunotherapy Over Damaging Treatments

One of the biggest changes we will see in cancer with the Moonshot initiative is a shift in focus from treatments like chemotherapy and radiation to immunotherapy methods. Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells throughout the body. Radiation is the use of high-energy particles or waves (x-rays, gamma rays, etc.) to damage or even destroy cancer cells.

Unfortunately, these can have damaging effects to the patient's body.

There are many associated side effects with these treatments, such as fatigue, lack of appetite, pain, nausea, and changes to skin. The side effects vary from patient to patient. Unfortunately, these methods of treatment can also have severely negative side effects because the treatments themselves can attack healthy cells that actually fight off harmful diseases and toxins within the body. Essentially, something that is helping your body in one way is actually hurting your body in another way. These effects can weaken the immune system and make it easier for cancer to recur.

Immunotherapy, on the other hand, uses your immune system to help fight diseases like cancer. One method stimulates the patient’s body to help the immune system work even better than normal; fighting off the bad cells. Another method requires the use of man-made components like proteins to help stimulate the immune system. There are a variety of different types of immunotherapies, like vaccines, antibodies and inhibitors, just to name a few.

It can be scary to participate in a clinical trial for immunotherapy. However, there are many pros. They have a proven track record of putting cancers in remission that were once thought to be totally incurable. The common side effects typically seen with chemotherapy and radiation are far less common with immunotherapy methods. Also, by participating in an immunotherapy clinical trial, you are helping to further advance research for that trial, and eventually help save the lives of more patients in the future.

Hope for Rare Cancers

All cancers will see a positive impact from the Cancer Moonshot; but, it is particularly exciting for rare cancers that have historically seen a formidable prognosis with questionable treatment options.

Cancers like mesothelioma will hopefully see a very beneficial impact. This cancer has between 2,000 and 3,000 newly diagnosed cases each year and a prognosis carrying a life expectancy of 12-24 months. The fact that less than half of people diagnosed with mesothelioma survive more than a year and less than ten percent survive more than three years is extremely chilling.

Besides mesothelioma, there are so many more rare cancers that will hopefully see an increase to life expectancy through improvements in treatment methods using immunotherapy. This initiative could mean the world for somebody battling mesothelioma, leukemia, lymphoma, sarcoma, or another type of cancer where hope might not necessarily always be in sight.

For more reading, please check out our sources:
Whitehouse.gov (Share Your Moonshot Idea)
Whitehouse.gov (Moonshot Fact Sheet)
Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center (Cancer Moonshot Blog Post)
Cancer.org (Treatment Info)
Cancer.gov (Immunotherapy)
Cancer Moonshot 2020

Sarah Wallace, Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center

The Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center is an online support and advocacy center that offers educational support to mesothelioma patients, family members, and caregivers.

By providing up-to-date information related to mesothelioma and other health conditions caused by asbestos exposure, MAAC is able to keep visitors well informed, and able to find the proper medical care for their diagnosis.

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