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The Cancer Moonshot initiative: Taking a giant leap toward a cure

“For the loved ones we’ve lost, for the families we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.”1—President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama made this statement in his State of the Union Address in January 2016 as he announced he was putting Vice President Joe Biden in charge of the Cancer Moonshot initiative. The initiative’s name is an obvious ode to the incredible feat our country accomplished in 1969 when, eight years after President John F. Kennedy called for a moon landing, the country watched American astronauts walk on the moon. With the Cancer Moonshot initiative, America hopes to harness this same spirit of American innovation to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer.

Cancer is personal to us all – there is not a community or family it has not impacted. So when the White House announced the Cancer Moonshot initiative, communities across the country sprung to action to come up with plans to contribute to this daring and bold challenge.

Through my role as Deloitte’s Federal Health Sector lead, I have come to realize how unique it is to be able to work across so many sectors of the health care industry: traditional health care organizations, federal, state, and local governments, non-profit organizations, life sciences companies, health plans, cancer centers, health care systems, emerging technology firms, and regulators. In thinking through how Deloitte could contribute to the Cancer Moonshot initiative, I, and the team, knew a key goal would be to find a way to use our resources – our people, passion, and purpose – to go upstream, leverage our place in the health care ecosystem, and make a difference in the fight against cancer.

Designing an XPRIZE Grand Challenge in cancer is one step we are taking to do that.2 The cancer research ecosystem is incredibly specialized, which can result in research and data silos. Through our collaboration, we will seek the input of experts over the next several months and issue a challenge to the cancer ecosystem to help us meet the goals of the Cancer Moonshot initiative. The XPRIZE model has the potential to activate the crowd and unite traditional and non-conventional partners across this wide cancer ecosystem to address the most pressing challenges.

It’s hard to imagine a strategy or tactic that has not been deployed to fight cancer. The scientific and research community has attacked the disease from every angle. With each success comes new challenges and complexity. But the tide is turning. Technology is proliferating at an exponential rate. The scientific community has the knowledge, the data, and the discovery tools it needs to accelerate progress in cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. The next step is to bring it all together and have disparate and dispersed research teams from around the country and the globe communicate and collaborate in new and unconventional ways.

The Deloitte team was delighted to be invited to participate in the Cancer Moonshot Summit on June 29. At the Summit, there were more than 350 researchers, oncologists, and other care providers, data and technology experts, patients, families, and advocates, who came together to contribute to the charge the federal government set out: to bring about a decade’s worth of advances in cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment in five years. What is truly inspiring is on that day, there were approximately 270 similar Summits going on around the country in which more than 6,000 people participated.

Participating in this Summit provided me and the team with perspective on why this diverse community of stakeholders is much more equipped this time around than when President Nixon first used the cancer moonshot metaphor in 1971. Today, not only do we have an unfathomable amount of information and knowledge compared to 45 years ago, we have the technological tools, data analytics, people, and passion coming together for a common and very noble purpose. I believe we are ready to take the giant leap toward finding the answers to cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment.

1 The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, Remarks of President Barack Obama – State of the Union Address as Delivered, January 13, 2016.
2 XPRIZE is a nonprofit organization with the mission to bring about radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity, through large-scale, high-profile incentivized prize competitions.

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Author bio

Dr. Cooper is the Global Health Care Sector Leader and the US National Inclusion Leader for Deloitte. She is a Deloitte Consulting LLP principal and most recently served as the Federal Health Sector leader for Deloitte in the United States. Previously, Terri served as lead client service partner for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the U.S. Life Sciences R&D practice leader. She has more than two decades of experience in the life sciences and health care industry and has provided a broad range of strategic advisory services. She holds a Joint Honors BS Degree in Chemistry/Pharmacology and a PhD in Pharmacology from the University of London.