Monday, September 24, 2012

A Moon Program For Cancer

Annals of Medicine

In an article by Meredith Wadman in Nature, the president of the United States' largest cancer-treatment centre has a made a bold statement, reminiscent of President John F. Kennedy's moon challenge fifty years ago.
At a news conference on 21 September, Ronald DePinho, the president of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, told reporters his institution would spend up to $3 billion over ten years to attack eight cancers in a new “moon shots” programme.
The goal: to dramatically accelerate discoveries that will reduce mortality from the following eight cancers: acute myeloid leukemia/myelodysplastic syndrome; chronic lymphocytic leukemia; melanoma; lung cancer; prostate cancer, and triple-negative breast and ovarian cancers.
These ”inaugural” moon shots DePinho said, were chosen by a panel of 25 experts led by Frank McCormick, the president of the American Association for Cancer Research. They looked at numerous proposals put forward by MD Anderson researchers in the time since DePinho took the job at the helm of MD Anderson one year ago.
It's a bold initiative, but a good one; I was wondering when such an initiative would happen. Undoubtedly, knowledgeable skeptics point out that cancer is a complicated and intelligent disease. Even so, there are always skeptics before every breakthrough, as there were during the early years of the Moon Program.

Yet, such skeptics, although well meaning (or not), never are the individuals at the forefront of innovation and discovery; they lack the imagination and courage. Such is the historical record of innovation. You need money, commitment, hard work and imagination to succeed. Bravo to Dr. DePinho, the MD Anderson Cancer Center and the many benefactors; we wish them well in their great initiative.

You can read the rest of the article at [Nature].