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'Moon Shots' Cancer Program Set to Launch Unprecedented Innovations

Update Date: Sep 21, 2012 12:04 PM EDT

Efforts to combat cancer and create effective preventative treatments have hit a fever pitch, as researchers from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have announced a new program titled 'Moon Shots' that seeks to dramatically accelerate the pace of converting scientific discoveries into clinical advances to decrease cancer deaths.

An estimated 100 million people worldwide are expected to lose their lives to cancer in this decade alone, according to the American Cancer Society and has since succeeded in being the most devastating illness to hit human kind than cardiovascular disease, tuberculosis, HIV and malaria combined.

The moon shots program can best be described by the Anderson Cancer Center as follows:

" [The program] is built upon a "disruptive paradigm" that brings together the best attributes of both academia and industry by creating cross-functional professional teams working in a goal-oriented, milestone-driven manner to convert knowledge into tests, devices, drugs and policies that can benefit patients as quickly as possible."

Its name is inspired by John F. Kennedy's deceleration that his generation be the one to take on the moon challenge because it is a challenge that must be done and his is a generation willing and ready to face it.

So ours is the generation ready and willing to take on the fight against cancer and, finally, win.

"Generations later, the Moon Shots Program signals our confidence that the path to curing cancer is in clearer sight than at any other time in history," said Ronald A. DePinho, M.D., MD Anderson's president. "Humanity urgently needs bold action to defeat cancer. I believe that we have many of the tools we need to pick the fight of the 21st century. Let's focus our energies on approaching cancer comprehensively and systematically, with the precision of an engineer, always asking ... 'What can we do to directly impact patients?'"

The project will faction elite scientists who specialize in the eight different types of cancers that are the leading cause of cancer related deaths world wide: melanoma, leukemia, lung, prostate, ovarian and breast, and myelodysplastic syndrome. They will then coalesce under one preeminent goal to work rigorously to find a cure and vaccine treatments against the types of cancers listed.

The primary focus behind the program function is for all research teams to work together under one infrastructure, funded by a single source so as to not become distracted by worries over funds, space or needs for new recruitment.

"How can we envision what's possible to reduce cancer mortality if we think boldly, adopt a more goal-oriented mentality, ignore the usual strictures on resources that encumber academic research and use the breakthrough technology available today?" DePhino once asked when excepting the presidency for MD Anderson.

The program will follow 12 different platforms of cancer diagnosis and treatment to make the processes faster, easier and far more effective.

Frank McCormick, Ph.D., director of the University of California, San Francisco Cancer Center and president of the American Association for Cancer Research, led the review panel of 25 internal and external experts that narrowed the field to the inaugural six moon shots. He notes:

"Nothing on the magnitude of the Moon Shots Program has been attempted by a single academic medical institution," McCormick said. "Moon shots take MD Anderson's deep bench of multidisciplinary research and patient care resources and offer a collective vision on moving cancer research forward."

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