UNC Lineberger hosts National Cancer Moonshot regional summit

Members from North Carolina’s three National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers, together with care providers, researchers, advocates and patients from the state, met in Chapel Hill to be part of a national discussion on how to speed the pace of cancer discovery and clinical advances.

UNC Lineberger hosts National Cancer Moonshot regional summit click to enlarge UNC Lineberger Director Norman E. Sharpless, MD, spoke about the importance of cancer prevention during directors’ panel discussion at the Cancer Moonshot's regional summit in Chapel Hill.
UNC Lineberger hosts National Cancer Moonshot regional summit click to enlarge The regional summit drew care providers, researchers, advocates and patients from North Carolina.

Care providers, researchers, advocates and patients from North Carolina came together in Chapel Hill Wednesday to participate in a national discussion on how to speed the pace of cancer discovery and the development of new treatments.

UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, Duke Cancer Institute and Wake Forest Baptist’s Comprehensive Cancer Center – the state’s three National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers – hosted the event as part of the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative’s national summit. In all, regional summits were held in 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam.

President Obama announced the Moonshot initiative during his State of the Union Address in January. The program’s goals are numerous, but the primary focus is to realize a decade’s worth of advances in cancer research and care in five years.

“The Moonshot is important for a number of reasons, not the least of which is funding to the NCI,” said UNC Lineberger Director Norman E. Sharpless, MD, in his opening remarks at the regional summit. “But there are a number of things the federal government can do in particular to support cancer research that are really important and are not financial.”

Specifically, Sharpless said it would be extremely beneficial if the government could improve the data integration process, thereby making it easier to aggregate clinical data for research studies, as well as streamline the FDA approval process for novel therapies.

The regional summit at the Friday Center included research presentations from faculty from each of the cancer centers as well as insights from N.C. Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Carl Fox on his cancer journey. Susan Braun, CEO of The V Foundation for Cancer Research, led a panel discussion with the cancer centers’ directors. In addition, UNC Lineberger member Barbara Rimer, DrPH, dean of UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and a member of the Cancer Moonshot Initiative’s Blue Ribbon Panel, shared her perspectives on how the Moonshot program can impact cancer research.

Lisa A. Carey, MD, the Richardson and Marilyn Jacobs Preyer Distinguished Professor of Breast Cancer Research and UNC Lineberger member, said the Carolina Breast Cancer Study, one of the largest studies of its kind, has demonstrated the value of clinicians, basic scientists and public health researchers working together – a key tenet of the Moonshot program. In addition to identifying biological causes of breast cancer, the study linked disparity issues with poor outcomes.

“As (cancers) become more treatable, disparity in access to care – capacity to get to the doctor’s office, to pay for the drug – becomes way more important,” Carey said. “If you just talk about the biology, you will be missing a really big part of why we have differentials in how people do with cancer. And this particularly affects North Carolina.”

The summit concluded with the directors’ panel discussion and questions from attendees. Sharpless, Michael Kastan, MD, PhD, at Duke, and Boris Pasche, MD, PhD, at Wake Forest Baptist, addressed a host of issues: where cancer prevention fits in the initiative; the importance of data disclosure from all clinical trials, including those with negative outcomes; the need for multi-institutional collaboration; and barriers preventing pharmaceutical and biotech companies from collaborating on clinical trials.