The National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB) of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has accepted a Blue Ribbon Panel’s recommendations, aimed to accelerate cancer research, prevention, and care. The report describes 10 research recommendations for achieving Vice President Joe Biden’s “Cancer Moonshot” initiative and realizing a decade’s worth of progress in cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment in just five years.
“In a very limited amount of time we were able to come together to address important topics to help … advances in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment,” María Elena Martínez, PhD, Sam M. Walton Endowed Chair for Cancer Research at University of California San Diego School of Medicine and a panel member, said in a press release. “My hope is that not just the National Cancer Institute, but other organizations and industry as well, take these recommendations to heart and contribute to moving these guidelines forward.”
Martinez co-chaired the 28-member Implementation Science Working Group, which was given five months to draft recommendations to improve cancer outcomes. The newly accepted recommendations include measures that more effectively implement interventions for cancer prevention, screening and early detection, risk and prognosis assessment, and the development of new treatment strategies.
“In some areas of cancer research, be it prevention or treatment, we actually have evidence of what works,” said Martínez. “A lot of research goes behind these guidelines. In some populations, specifically those that do not have the means to get to a physician, to get to a hospital, who don’t have health insurance, these guidelines don’t get implemented. Some of it has to do with educating the community, making sure they are part of the implementation of these guidelines and that they’re at the forefront of moving this forward.”
The recommendations are:
- Encourage cancer patients to contribute with their tumor-profiling data to increase knowledge on which therapies work in which types of cancer
- Test novel immune-based treatments for adult and pediatric cancers, and establish a cancer immunotherapy clinical trials network
- Conduct studies that determine how cancer cells acquire resistance to previously effective treatments, and identify therapeutic targets that overcome such resistance
- Create a cancer data ecosystem to link and share large data sets to ease discoveries that will be used to improve patient outcomes
- Improve the knowledge on fusion oncoproteins in pediatric cancer, and use new preclinical models to develop inhibitors that target them
- Create guidelines for routine monitoring and management of patient symptoms to reduce the disease and its treatment’s side effects
- Development, testing, and adoption of evidence-based prevention strategies that reduce cancer risk
- Analyze specimens from thousands of patients given standard therapies to understand which tumor features predict cancer outcomes
- Create dynamic 3-D maps of human tumor evolution to catalog genetic lesions, as well as interactions between cancer cells and cells from the tumor microenvironment, as a tumor evolves from a precancerous lesion to an advanced cancer
- Develop new cancer technologies to speed testing of therapies and characterization of tumors
The group also endorsed the need to expand prevention and early detection strategies that address tobacco cessation, screening for colorectal cancer, screening for the human papillomavirus (HPV), as well as screening for hereditary cancer syndromes.
According to Martínez, in the United States, colorectal cancer screenings are currently only accessible to 50 percent to 60 percent of the population, a number that drops to 20 percent to 30 percent for low-income residents. In the case of access to HPV vaccines, only 40 percent of age-eligible girls and 20 percent of age-eligible boys are currently receiving the full recommended vaccine dosage.
“The bold but feasible cross-cutting initiatives in this report will improve outcomes for patients with cancer, prevent cancer and increase our understanding of cancer,” said Douglas Lowy, MD, NCI acting director. “NCI stands ready to accelerate cancer research in the critical areas identified by the Blue Ribbon Panel.”