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On May 25, 1961, President Kennedy challenged America’s best and brightest to put a man on the moon within the decade. The result was the successful Apollo mission eight years later in 1969. 

With this as the inspiration, President Obama in the January State of the Union Address announced the Cancer Moonshot – a decade long initiative to cure cancer. This month the Blue Ribbon Panel for the Cancer Moonshot announced ten recommendations, forming the research blueprint for the mission.

The Colon Cancer Alliance believes these recommendations are on target – we applaud the work of the Blue Ribbon Panel and strongly encourage everyone in the colon cancer community to give the Cancer Moonshot their strong support. You can read summary of the recommendations at The Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel Report at a Glance.

We were initially concerned that the Cancer Moonshot would only focus on scientific research and not engage public health strategies. However, Recommendation C calls for the expanded use of proven prevention and early detection strategies, specifically noting colorectal cancer screening.

We know that for every 1,000 adults who adhere to screening recommendations we prevent 22 to 24 deaths from colorectal cancer. We are very pleased the Blue Ribbon Panel is including expansion of efforts to get  adults 50 and over screened for colon cancer and look forward to details on strategies to achieve the goal.

Recommendation B seeks to build a clinical trials network devoted exclusively to immunotherapy. Progress in engaging the body’s own immune system to fight cancer is the most exciting development in cancer research in years and has already shown amazing results in melanoma and lymphoma; and, for a subset of colorectal cancer patients, Keytruda, is showing promise in clinical trials. But the mystery to be solved is why does immunotherapy work for some patients and not others? A dedicated clinical trials network could significantly speed the ability of scientists to identify the answer.

Besides being informed about the Cancer Moonshot, what can you do as a colorectal cancer patient, survivor, caregiver or loved one to help achieve the goal of a cure for cancer in this decade?

We need you to be a strong and vocal advocate for the Moonshot in two vital areas:

  • Funding: President Kennedy asked for $9 billion dollars over five years for the space program. Adjusting for inflation, that would the equivalent of requesting $73 billion today. The Obama administration requested $1 billion in new funding for the NIH to support year one of the Cancer Moonshot, barely a fraction of what we were willing to spend to put a man on the moon, yet many in Congress are balking saying the cost is too high. While we are in a tight budget situation and need to curb spending as a nation, we must balance that with what we value. On the day you read this, 1,500 Americans will die from cancer – this will happen every single day. If you are a man, there is a 50 / 50 chance you will get cancer in your life time, one in three if you are woman. It would be an incredible legacy to bequeath our children and all future generations a world free from cancer.
  •  Politics: While the Cancer Moonshot was launched by President Obama, with Vice President Biden at the helm, it must be a program of the National Institutes of Health and never considered an “Obama initiative.” It was Kennedy, a Democrat that started the original moonshot and Nixon, a Republican, who was president when it occurred – it was an American accomplishment and not the domain of either political party. It is vital that the Cancer Moonshot be above the sea of politics. Improved treatments and a cure for cancer will benefit all, regardless of party affiliations.

We hope you will join the Colon Cancer Alliance in showing your support for the Cancer Moonshot; and as always, remember to Speak Up and Speak Out.



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