“For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the families that we can still save…let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.” This powerful statement from President Obama came just under a year ago, as he gave his final State of the Union Address. It was then, he announced a nationwide Cancer Moonshot initiative – an initiative with the end goal to cure cancer!
At the charge of this initiative we have Vice President Joe Biden. VP Biden has had a very personal connection with cancer. In May 2015, he lost his son, Beau, to brain cancer. Beau passed away at the very young age of 46. He was a lawyer by training, and joined the Delaware National Guard in 2003 serving as a major in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. In 2008, he was deployed in Iraq – during his father’s run for Vice President.
Vice President Biden explained how the Moonshot is not necessarily a time bound campaign. It’s more than that. “The Cancer Moonshot is a movement that lives in communities across the United States and the world — and it will live long after we leave office,” He continued, “Mr. President, we can’t afford for it not to, because the need is too great and the promise even greater.”
Cancer Moonshot Summit
June 28th, 2016 the Cancer Moonshot Summit was hosted at Howard University in Washington D.C. Not limited to this location, mini-summits were held at more than 270 locations across the country. At this summit, VP Biden, along with over 350 researchers, oncologists, data and technology experts, patients, families and advocates, would come together to discuss the goal to double the rate of progress in cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care.
Huge strides have been made in cancer treatment over the last year. One method in particular has been immunotherapy.Immunotherapy is a method of treatment using one’s own immune system to work smarter and harder to combat disease. There are a variety of different immunotherapy treatment types, but one in particular that has shown hope this year is called monoclonal antibody drugs (anti-PD1 or anti-PD-L1).
This targeted therapy can be used on it’s own, or in combination with other types of treatments. The specific drug, Keytruda (generic name pemrolizumab), is one in particular that has been used to treat a variety of different types of cancer. This type of drug targets specific sites or proteins, within cancer cells. The pro to this is that it targets bad cancer cells and leaves your bodies normal cells alone, unlike traditional treatments like chemotherapy and radiation, that can actually hurt the rest of your body, while trying to get rid of cancer cells.
In October 2015, Keytruda was FDA approved to treat non-small cell lung cancer. Just over a year later in October 2016, it was approved as first-line treatment of certain patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer. This means, it is not only an approved treatment method, but it is actually the first option – as opposed to traditional treatments like chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. With this drug’s success, it is being used in new clinical trials for other cancers, like mesothelioma.
This is a huge feat, and goes to show that emerging treatment methods can really make a difference in how those with cancer are being treated.
To Infinity and Beyond 2016
Inevitably, along the way to finding a cure for cancer, there will be hurdles and barriers. Luckily, the first year of the Cancer Moonshot initiative has proven to be successful in terms of rethinking how we currently view and deal with cancer. More efforts will be put into technology, data, diagnosis, treatment and prevention. Eventually, the work being done can bring us to a cure. Along the way, the Moonshot will be bringing plenty of benefits to those affected by cancer!