National Spotlight Shines On Childhood Cancer Research

Sarah McIlvaine
Author | Shield HealthCare
04/27/16  2:00 PM PST
childhood cancer research

In January, President Obama announced a new cancer research project: the National Cancer Moonshot. The next month, childhood cancer research was in the spotlight as 10 leading children’s hospitals announced that they would join forces to expand research. This year they will work together in a a pediatrics consortium – an association with a goal to upgrade childhood cancer research efforts.

The ten outstanding children’s hospitals will open a new chapter in the war on childhood cancer. Through data sharing and cooperation, more progress can be made in the search for a cure.

What will the association do to improve childhood cancer research?

The three major initiatives of the Pediatrics Consortium are to:

(a) Specify cancer treatments to each patient’s unique case. It has become clear that cancer affects every patient in a unique way, but treatment is often too generalized. The pediatrics consortium will ensure that every patient’s treatment is personalized to their specific case. This is done using advanced techniques like genomics and molecular analysis.

(b) Increase the sharing of research results across the medical and scientific community. Sharing research findings among the medical, scientific, and academic worlds of childhood cancer research has always been challenging. The new multi-hospital consortium will openly share data they had previously kept to themselves. When data is shared, all participants can access more information, leading to faster and better decisions for patient treatment.

(c) Install technological solutions. The consortium will create a new cloud database to share information in real time with all participants. The cloud database is instantly accessible, so uploading or downloading will be fast and easy. With a more comprehensive database that is easy to access, doctors can be more effective in their treatment decisions.

Who is included in the National Pediatrics Consortium?

childhood cancer research

Phoenix Children’s Hospital Main Building, Photo credit Phoenix Children’s Hospital 

Phoenix Children’s Hospital will lead the consortium, joined by the following nine hospitals chosen by the National Cancer Moonshot leadership:

Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and its Aflac Cancer & Blood Disorders Center

Children’s Hospital of Orange County (Orange, Calif.)

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC

Duke Department of Pediatrics – Duke University School of Medicine (Durham, N.C.)

Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center (Boston)

Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah and Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital (Salt Lake City)

Sanford Health (Sioux Falls, S.D.)

Who is Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong?

The 10 hospitals in the Moonshot’s National Pediatric Consortium will be joined by L.A.-based billionaire surgeon Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong. Dr. Soon-Shiong is launching The Chan Soon-Shiong Children’s Precision Medicine Institute at Phoenix Children’s. The new institute wants to prove that personalized, precise treatment (through molecular sequencing) is the way forward in childhood cancer research.

Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong has led the charge against cancer in many ways, most recently by negotiating a landmark partnership of several pharmaceutical companies. Although drug manufacturers prefer to work in isolation and keep findings highly confidential,  Dr. Soon-Shiong has convinced them to join forces. Together the pharmaceutical companies will be able to trial more than 60 new cancer drugs, something no one company could accomplish alone. By agreeing to cooperate, these drug companies will eliminate some major roadblocks to development of better cancer treatments.

childhood cancer research

Photo credit Matthew Herper in his article “Can Patrick Soon-Shiong, The World’s Richest Doctor, Fix Health Care?”on

What is the National Cancer Moonshot?

President Obama introduced The National Cancer Moonshot, a $1 billion dollar cancer research initiative, during his 2016 State of the Union Address. The initiative is labeled a ‘moonshot’ because it is inspired by JFK’s 1961 initiative to ‘get a man on the moon by the end of the decade.’

Vice President Joe Biden will lead the cancer research panel. For him the fight is personal- the VP lost his son Beau Biden to cancer in 2015. The national cancer moonshot is not expected to cure cancer in any short period of time. It is intended to remove existing challenges in cancer research, and to unify researchers with a commitment to a common goal- a goal that will hopefully last well beyond the current political cycle.

Why do we need a National Cancer Moonshot?

Many have wondered what this new initiative can accomplish. We have seen a war on cancer before, but some feel it has not gotten us very far. So how can we further improve cancer research? Why do we need a National Cancer Moonshot?

“Cancer politics”

VP Joe Biden has described “cancer politics” as a lack of communication, and an inefficiency, in development of new cancer treatments. Biden blames the divisions among the medical and pharmaceuticals community as a major holdup to the fight for a cure. He explains that several drug companies may be working on similar drugs, or repeating similar work, as each keeps their own findings confidential. The lack of sharing and cooperation in cancer research is common, as most companies seek to protect their own breakthrough developments.

With this initiative, VP Biden aims to revolutionize communication and information sharing in the world of cancer research. With everyone on the same page, researchers and clinicians will be able to work more efficiently towards a cure. There will be a focus on precision treatments with molecular analysis, and making clinical trials available to patients with severe diagnoses.

childhood cancer research

Vice President Joe Biden meets with physicians- Official white house photo, credit David Lienemann

Will the National Cancer Moonshot be effective?

It is simply too early to say what the cancer moonshot panel will accomplish, but VP Joe Biden has made some substantial improvements so far, including:

(a) Creation of a National Pediatrics Consortium to participate in a groundbreaking national data-sharing effort.

(b) Organization of a partnership of multiple pharmaceutical companies who have agreed to work together and to aggressively trial over 60 new cancer treatment drugs.

(c) Reaching an agreement with Independence Blue Cross, a private health plan provider, to begin covering molecular sequencing for some cancer patients.

To continue this progress will require massive cooperation among the government and private sectors, and the medical and scientific domains. Some small steps have been made toward an upgraded cancer research community- one that will work together to put patients outcomes first. Hopefully the National Cancer Moonshot will continue to build momentum toward its goal to end cancer as we know it.

Shield HealthCare, established in 1957, is an industry leader in home-delivered Incontinence, Urological, Ostomy, Enteral Nutrition, and Wound Supplies.

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Want to read more? See the U.S. News selected 12 Best Children’s Hospitals of 2015 here.

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