A Global Effort to End Cancer as We Know It

by Jerry SH Lee, PhD, Deputy Director for Cancer Research and Technology, White House Cancer Moonshot Task Force; and Danielle Carnival, PhD, Chief of Staff and Senior Policy Director, White House Cancer Moonshot Task Force

“Cancer is not a national problem. It is not an international problem. It is a humanitarian problem” — Vice President Biden, Social Good Summit, September 2016

Based on the latest report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, there were more than 14.1 million new cancer cases and more than eight million cancer deaths worldwide in 2012. More than half of new cancer cases and nearly two-thirds of cancer deaths occurred in economically developing countries. By 2030, the disparity between high-income nations and low- and middle-income countries is slated to be even greater. Lifestyle factors known to contribute to increase cancer risk, such as smoking, physical inactivity, and poor diet, are more prevalent in low- and middle-income countries.

Available from http://globocan.iarc.fr, accessed on September 23, 2016.

At the 2016 United Nation Foundation’s Social Good Summit, Vice President Biden shared his #2030NOW vision of how to begin addressing global cancer health issues through new international collaborations and investments inspired by the Cancer Moonshot.

Proteogenomic Cancer Care

“We must increase research and patient data sharing…imagine what we could do with global sets of patient data to represent the great international diversity of populations, of people, and of cancers” — Vice President Biden, Vatican, April 2016

With the exponential growth in DNA sequencing technologies in the last decade, several U.S. and international efforts have been launched in economically developed countries to better understand the genomic diversity of tumors in cancer patients. By sharing protocols and standardized datasets, we have been able to capture, analyze, and broadly disseminate differences found in cancer genomics of ~20,000 donors worldwide. In the past year, through the efforts of the U.S. Clinical Proteomic Tumor Analysis Consortium, we are now able to simultaneously obtain genomics and proteomics (the expression of genes as proteins) of a patient’s tumor sample to generate a comprehensive proteogenomic profile. Or as Vice President Biden puts it, “it’s like the genes are the full roster of a basketball team but the winning strategy comes from finding out who their starting lineup is. The proteins are the starters you’re going to play against — the five you are going to have to defend against.” The first U.S. proteogenomics Dream Team was announced on June 29, 2016, when the U.S. Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense, and National Cancer Institute created the first integrated early discovery-to-clinical healthcare implementation network called APOLLO to apply proteogenomics profiling on 8,000 active duty, veterans, and civilians.

Less than three weeks later, Vice President Biden announced during his visit to Australia that the U.S. APOLLO team would collaborate and share datasets with four Australian institutions.

“We’re going to be able to share patient histories, proteogenomics and clinical phenotypes data — data on various proteins and genetic characteristics of almost 60,000 patients in Australia and the United States with full privacy protections…and I predict that you’re going to see this repeated around the world.” — Vice President Biden, Australia, July 2016

And it did.

This week, during the United Nations General Assembly, Vice President Biden announced an unprecedented international collaboration through eight new collaborations with Canada, China, Germany, Japan, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, and the American Institute in Taiwan/Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office. By aligning efforts, fifteen institution spanning eight countries will establish a proteogenomic All-Star team that have the potential to generate proteogenomic, medical imaging, and clinical datasets on more than 100,000 cancer patients that will be shared and used by cancer researchers and physicians around the world.

New Investments in International Regional Centers of Research Excellence

To address the issue of global disparities to conduct cancer research in low and middle income counties, Vice President Biden also announced the creation of a network of Regional Centers of Research Excellence (RCREs) that will support partnerships between high-income countries and low- and middle-income countries to lay the groundwork for planning and design of regional hubs to coordinate basic, translational, clinical, and population science research relevant to that region. The first set of six RCREs will form a large population-based breast cancer cohort in Vietnam; strengthen management of data for breast cancer and hypertension in Botswana and South Africa; create a regional resource for cancer pathology and trauma surgery training in Malawi, develop an infrastructure to examine cancer and diabetes in Colombia, Costa Rico, Guatemala, and Mexico; build a pathology-based cancer registry to study breast, uterine, and cervical cancers in Bangladesh; and establish a country-wide, clinic-based method to prevent and control breast and oral cancers in India.

Maintaining Momentum

Beyond targeted collaborations and investments, Vice President Biden also announced new agreements with Japan, Serbia, and Sweden to create a general framework of collaboration with the U.S. Office of Global Affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. National Cancer Institute for promoting and conducting high-quality research and data-sharing to strengthen the evidence base necessary for cancer prevention, treatment, and management. The U.S. Department of State has pledged to help facilitate new avenues for international collaboration by highlighting cancer research in a number of their U.S. bilateral science and technology engagements. As they continue to work with technical experts and policy makers from over 70 countries and multilateral organizations, we will make sure to extend an open hand to anyone willing to help the Cancer Moonshot achieve Vice President global vision for #2030NOW.

“We have an obligation to help, not later, not tomorrow — now. What I’d like to talk to you about is my hope that by the year 2030, we’ll live in a world where cancer is ended as we know it.” — Vice President Biden, Social Good Summit, September 2016

Jerry is the Deputy Director for Cancer Research and Technology for the Cancer Moonshot Task Force. He has spent the last decade in the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Office of the Director developing and implementing over a dozen large-scale advanced technology initiatives and serving as Deputy Director of NCI’s Center for Strategic Scientific Initiatives.

Danielle is the Chief of Staff and Senior Policy Director for the White House Cancer Moonshot Task Force. Danielle has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience, is a bicycling and STEM education enthusiast, and lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband and toddler son.