Cancer Moonshot panel releases recommendations as precision medicine spreads

The expert panel for Vice President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot initiative has outlined its recommendations for researching the disease in hopes of achieving a goal of 10 years’ progress over a five-year period.

The 28-member Blue Ribbon Panel this week released a plan containing 10 key recommendations, including:

  • Form a direct patient-involvement network, which engages patients to help with development of a comprehensive, patient-centered profile
  • Create strategies to overcome cancer’s resistance to therapy
  • Develop a network for immunotherapy clinical trials that focuses on discovering and evaluating new approaches
  • Develop a “national ecosystem” that allows clinicians, patients and researchers to contribute and share their cancer data
  • Increase analysis and research on major contributing factors for pediatric cancer cases
  • Develop maps of tumor evolution to document and learn from individual cases
  • Work to offset and minimize the debilitating side effects of cancer treatments
  • Cut both risk and health disparities through testing, development and adoption of evidence-supported best practices
  • Create technologies to test therapies and analyze tumors
  • Dive deeper into existing patient data to predict future outcomes and treatment responses

"This is an enormous, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the cancer community and our nation to come together around a single disease that touches everyone,” the chairs of the panel wrote. “Others are major initiatives that the cancer community has envisioned but for which resources were lacking or the technology wasn’t ready.”

Reacting to the recommendations, American Medical Informatics Association President and CEO Doug Fridsma said in a statement emailed to press that while the report calls for much data sharing, current electronic health records are not capable of the level of sharing sought.

"The vast oceans of data available in electronic health records remain locked inside systems incapable of transmitting more than simple care summaries," Fridsma said. "Without access to complete medical records, patients will not be able to fully engage with the Cancer Moonshot, Precision Medicine and other big data research efforts. ... [W]ithout a digital 'print all' functionality, made available through all certified EHRs, we will continue to fall short of our aspirations."

Still, the Precision Medicine Initiative continues to spread through American hospitals, with a recent survey from HIMSS Analytics finding nearly one in three healthcare organizations currently engaged in precision medicine research. It would likely be more, researchers wrote, but for the major investments required. Most of the programs are concentrated in academic medical centers, which account for 35 percent of programs, and those with more than 500 beds, which comprise 41 percent.