From the CEO's Desk: George Dahlman provides perspective on the National Moonshot Initiative. What does it really mean for children with cancer, and how much can be accomplished in an election year?
For childhood cancer advocates, 2015 ended on an optimistic note with a budget agreement between the President and Congress that increases funding for cancer research - including new funding opportunities for childhood cancer programs. That achievement came after more than a decade of stagnant funding at the National Cancer Institute, which sapped the purchasing power of those programs.
2016 opened with another cause for hope when President Obama announced a “Moonshot” initiative to “eliminate cancer as we know it.” The Moonshot aims to accelerate research efforts, break down barriers, and encourage more collaborations with researchers, doctors, patients, and pharmaceutical companies. The goal is to to bring about a decade’s worth of advances in five years, and the Administration is targeting $1 billion to jump-start the project.
For childhood cancer, the initiative is focusing on new technology to develop drug libraries and screens to create new, less toxic therapies, which are especially important to pediatric patients. It promises to collect and analyze tumor specimens from the rarest childhood cancers, enlisting the help of the pediatric oncology community. And it intends to research the course of disease and response to therapy to address long-term issues.
The optimism for this initiative, however, needs to be tempered with some political reality. It’s an election year and Congress is only scheduled to be in session 111 days, limiting how much attention lawmakers can devote to individual projects. And while cancer research – almost uniquely – has strong bipartisan support in Washington, the fight for dollars in competing areas will require a concerted effort by the cancer community – and especially cancer advocates – to keep the heat on their legislators.
Despite those headwinds, the Moonshot initiative does provide childhood cancer advocates with an opportunity: a platform and vision to make the case that Congress can help alleviate the suffering for children and the burdens for families fighting cancer.
With the help of families around the country, that is one of the top goals of Children’s Cause in 2016: to ensure that Congress remains committed to a vision of discovering new, improved, less toxic treatments for childhood cancer and achieving long, healthy lives for childhood cancer survivors. The voices of families will be critical in realizing this vision, and mobilizing those voices will be the subject of appeals and ‘calls-to action’ to rally the community and unify our voice.
We encourage you and your families, friends and neighbors to join in our work. Please pass along this message and invite your network to our grassroots action team. You'll be among the first to know about upcoming opportunities to make your voices heard.
Together, we can make childhood cancer a national priority: