Back in January, President Obama, during his State of the Union address, tasked Vice President Biden with leading a national effort “to end cancer as we know it,” with various touch points throughout 2016 to come up with a plan of action. More recently, a Task Force was announced, chaired by VP Biden and comprised of pharmaceutical companies, researchers and government organizations with the goal of “making the most of federal investments, targeted incentives, private sector efforts from industry and philanthropy, patient engagement initiatives, and other mechanisms to support cancer research and enable progress in prevention, screening, treatment, and care.”
What does this mean? The Cancer Moonshot seeks to increase funding for cancer research in the hopes that the money will generate new and innovative ideas within the research community, implement new initiatives to expedite medical research and better coordinate treatments for millions of people.
Why is this important? Cancer treatments have improved drastically over the last 20-25 years, but many treatments, including chemotherapy – still a mainstay for many types of cancer – saddle patients with unimaginable side effects. For patients with advanced stages of cancer, they cycle through treatment after treatment just to stay alive for what could be just a few months. Increased funding (Biden’s goal is to increase by $1 billion by 2021) means more freedom for researchers to explore new areas of treatment and treatment combinations.
What does this mean for patients? Currently, only 5% of cancer patients enroll in clinical trials. That is a staggeringly low number. The Moonshot seeks to not only speed up research so that there are more clinical trials, but also aims to make these trials more accessible for patients.
How is Pharma involved? 12 biopharmaceutical companies are involved in the Task Force, as well as in the Partnership for Accelerating Cancer Therapies (PACT), which will fund precompetitive cancer research and share broadly all data generated for further research, ultimately bringing more new therapies to patients in less time.
In a report released in October, the Task Force details 2016 accomplishments and provides a roadmap for future administrations to continue funding this initiative. PACT will fund precompetitive cancer research and share broadly all data generated for further research, ultimately bringing more new therapies to patients in less time.
What can we do as communications professionals?
While the answer is not cut and dry, there are a few things to consider when looking to get involved in the moonshot:
- Keep patients informed about the latest developments in clinical trials. Many of us work directly with patients – either in an advocacy capacity or through blogger initiatives – these are the moments for us – and companies themselves, to talk about the latest in research
- Consider an extensive clinical trial recruitment program. Work in tandem with companies to announce trials and recruit patients; through salesforce/HCPs, advocacy, even social media. A surround sound clinical trial recruitment approach enables us to reach patients through various mediums
- Encourage patients to do their own research and work with their physicians to identify a clinical trial that may fit their needs
Open dialogue with patients about clinical trials is essential to the success of the Moonshot; this will allow researchers, pharmaceutical companies, and the FDA to glean more insights in the hopes of advancing cancer treatment.