On May 25, 1961, President Kennedy told Congress his administration was committed to putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade. The human effort this would require dwarfed virtually every initiative attempted before then, and only the construction of the Panama Canal and Manhattan Project would cost more. In 1961, the world lacked the technology to achieve a lunar landing; but through research, innovation and an unwavering commitment to the goal, on July 21, 1969, Neil Armstrong planted the Stars and Stripes on the moon.
Last month, President Obama tasked Vice President Biden to lead a new lunar mission that, if successful, would benefit humankind in ways far beyond space exploration. Themed “the Moonshot,” it is a new national initiative to work toward a cure for cancer and includes plans to funnel $1 billion into the project. Obama’s mission to “make America the country that cures cancer once and for all” is one all Americans should embrace. One out of every two men and one out of every three women will get cancer in their lifetime. Every single day 1,600 Americans die from cancer and colon cancer is the second leading cause of these deaths.
Much as the 1960’s lunar mission required the commitment and participation of both the government and private sector, curing cancer will take the support of government, the biopharmaceutical industry, the medical community and the public. We will need to significantly increase basic research through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), incentivize the pharmaceutical and biotech industries to invest in cutting edge clinical research (that may not always be profitable, but may advance our progress) and eliminate unnecessary barriers to data that could speed discoveries.
In 1971, President Nixon declared war on cancer. Unfortunately, we lacked the weapons to wage such a war at the time, but today science and technology has brought breakthroughs unimaginable in the 70’s. While Nixon did not live to see the progress from the war on cancer, it is his successor President Jimmy Carter who announced he was cancer-free in December. Researchers and clinicians pointed to the role of immunotherapy in making this great news possible. This is why the Moonshot is so important: we can see what an investment in biomedical research can mean as lives are being saved with these new treatments. The Moonshot can serve to redouble our efforts and progress and truly “cure cancer once and for all.”
What do you think about the Moonshot? Please share your thoughts and, as always, be sure to Speak Up and Speak Out.
Speak Up, Speak Out is an advocacy series where we bring you the information you need to know every third Tuesday of the month. Don’t forget, the Colon Cancer Alliance serves as a source of information about colon health. If you have questions or are in need of support, please contact our free Helpline at (877) 422-2030.