Cancer

Cancer Moonshot Misses the Mark

The lifetime risk of cancer for American men is 1 in 2. For women it's 1 in 3.

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In 1971, Richard Nixon vowed "a national commitment for the conquest of cancer" as he signed the law establishing the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Forty-five years later, Barack Obama declared in his 2016 State of the Union address that our country would embark upon a "new moonshot" with the aim of making "America the country that cures cancer once and for all"; Vice President Joe Biden would be in charge of "mission control." In its October 17, 2016, report, the Cancer Moonshot Task Force declared that its goal is "to make a decade's worth of progress in preventing, diagnosing, and treating cancer in just 5 years."

How? The usual federal bureaucratic efforts of "catalyzing," "leveraging," and "targeting" are promised. But there is some meat to the proposals. For example, the NCI is creating a pre-approved "formulary" of promising therapeutic compounds from 30 pharmaceutical companies that will make them immediately available to researchers. In addition, the task force aims to establish open science computational platforms to provide data to all researchers on successful and failed investigations, and a consortium of 12 leading biotech and pharmaceutical companies are working together to identify and validate biomarkers for response and resistance to cancer therapies.

Prevention is also a focus. The moonshot aims to save lives by boosting the colorectal cancer screening rate among Americans 50 and older and raising HPV vaccination rates for adolescents.

The lifetime risk of cancer for American men is 1 in 2. For women it's 1 in 3. So what would a decade's worth of progress look like? According to the latest American Cancer Society figures, the cancer death rate has dropped by 23 percent since 1991, translating into more than 1.7 million deaths averted through 2012. The five-year survival rate has also increased from 49 to 69 percent. Doubling progress might mean doubling the annual reduction in cancer death rates for men to 3.6 percent and for women to 2.8 percent. That would cut the number of Americans dying of cancer from about 600,000 per year now to just above 500,000 in 2021.

But progress may happen even faster than that. The most exciting recent therapeutic breakthrough is immunotherapy—a treatment where cancer patients' immune cells are unleashed as guided missiles to kill their cancer. "It's actually plausible that in 10 years we'll have curative therapies for most if not all human cancers," declared Gary Gilliland, president and director of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, at a conference in 2015. The good news is that the cancer moonshot may end up trailing advances that have already taken off.

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  1. Another case of government piggybacking on already occurring trends. FDR would be proud.

    1. I thought Obama and Biden were gods of retards though.

      And how ridiculous is it that this was not the most laughable and lampooned lunacy of Obama’s tenure? This should have been a defining moment of what a fraud and failure he is.

      Biden and Brak do not have the combined intelligence of the president’s cabinet from Idiocracy.

      1. “Yeah, i’ve got a moonshot: you suck!”

    2. Cue the “you didn’t cure that” remarks.

    3. I can’t wait until the blowhard politician du jour claims in 20 years that they took the initiative to cure cancer because of this program.

  2. Colostomy, moonshot, whatever.

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    1. How did they buy a car that was not in production after 1998 as new? And given the last documented sale I saw was for over 13 million, I think your claimed wages fall far short of paying for that monster.

  4. There’s supposed to have been a curative therapy for most if not all human cancers 10-15 years away since the 1970s. I’ll believe it when I see it. I’m not all that optimistic about marginal gains in extending how long it takes to die from cancer either considering the vastly diminishing returns on exponentially increasing costs of care.

    1. Science journalists and technofetishists make for poor fortunetellers. Kurzweil’s robot body will be ready any day now.

    2. This was along my current line of thought as well;

      According to the latest American Cancer Society figures, the cancer death rate has dropped by 23 percent since 1991, translating into more than 1.7 million deaths averted through 2012. The five-year survival rate has also increased from 49 to 69 percent.

      Averted. Deferred. Whatever. Fewer people dying of heart disease at 65 means more dying of cancer at 80-85 and wasting related diseases at 90-95. I wonder how many of the people who didn’t die of cancer between ’91 and ’12 simply died of cancer in ’13+.

      The current foma I keep stumbling across is science researchers referring to something as a potential silver bullet for cancer and subsequently explaining how it might have to be adapted from patient to patient and cancer to cancer. It’s like they’ve never even killed a werewolf.

  5. I’v been watching the Cancer front for decades. A few thoughts;

    It seems to me that, since everybody is gonna die of something, Cancer may be what happens to you when nothing else gets you.

    What the hell are the anti-smoking Crudarers gonna do when Cancer is as easy to cure as a stomach ulcer?

    1. I know what I’m going to do, chain-smoke for the rest of my life.

      /Day 4 of Quitting Cold Turkey Goddammit.

      1. Good luck John, if cold turkey becomes unbearable…vaping will work. I went from 2 packs a day for 20+ years to smoke free for 3 years and counting.

        1. The FDA says you’re wrong. But we’ve long established what assists they are.

      2. I feel ya, but of course cancer is only one of the bad things smoking will do to you- don’t forget emphysema and heart disease.

    2. That is true. Every time they tout some new species that does not get cancer, it turns out it is because individuals of that species do not live long enough. Raise some in captivity away from dangers of mortality and they get cancer eventually.

  6. Bailey, these statistics are disingenuous. Saying that 1 out of 2 men will get cancer does not paint the correct picture. For example, it includes prostate cancer, which pretty much everyone will get if they reach their 80s. However, many instances of prostate cancer are rather benign, in that they grow slow and will not be the cause of mortality. So, there are cancers and there are cancers. You can’t just group them all into one category and make sweeping generalizations. Cancer is actually a collection of about 200 different diseases.

    1. “it includes prostate cancer, which pretty much everyone will get if they reach their 80s”.

      Actually, there are quite a few people I know for a fact won’t get prostate cancer.

      /pedant

      Sorry, I had to! 😉

      1. There is no proof that daily prostate digital stimulation prevents prostate cancer, BearOdinson.

        1. But it can’t hurt!

          1. It can if you’re a cheapskate.

    2. Yeah, I got thyroid cancer last year. They yank it out, give you some radioactive iodine and send you on your way. Not fun, but a damned sight less traumatic than, say, open heart surgery. But open heart surgery isn’t CANCER!!!!! In which case, I’m glad I got cancer in my mid-40s instead of stressing myself into a heart attach like others do.

  7. “to make a decade’s worth of progress in preventing, diagnosing, and treating cancer in just 5 years.”

    My gods, that very phrase might as well have been stated by Mr. Thompson.

    Hey, I am going to invent a 5 lb bag that can hold 10 lbs. of shit!

    1. Hey, I am going to invent a 5 lb bag that can hold 10 lbs. of shit!

      As I said, the field is rife with doctors routinely inventing silver bullets that only kill certain werewolves and only when cast in the proper caliber and are fired with just the right velocity.

  8. Vice President Joe Biden would lead a presidential Cancer Moonshot Task Force

    …and while earthly medical science has not advanced significantly due to his efforts, astronomers agree that the moon most definitely has cancer now.

    1. Well you saw all the amazing things he did for gun-violence, right? Biden is Obama’s Top-Man – you just point him at an issue and bam!, its onto the next issue.

  9. Let’s be honest. All of this moonshot talk is a money grab for breast cancer and only breast cancer

  10. Bad news for cancer research. We’ll see in what absurd ways cancer research is guided by political objectives.

  11. ‘But progress may happen even faster than that. The most exciting recent therapeutic breakthrough is immunotherapy?a treatment where cancer patients’ immune cells are unleashed as guided missiles to kill their cancer. “It’s actually plausible that in 10 years we’ll have curative therapies for most if not all human cancers,” declared Gary Gilliland, president and director of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center,”

    But only if the FDA completely throws out its testing regime requirements that currently prevent testing of individualized therapies in trials….of which I have hear no mention in this Cancer Moonshot bullshit.

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  13. Maybe we can at least educate people that cancer is not one disease, but many related diseases with similar pathology. There are wide ranges of efficacy for treatment protocols depending on cancer type, location and stage.

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