By Ronald A. DePinho, M.D.
Ronald A. DePinho, M.D., became president of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in September 2011.
For MD Anderson Cancer Center, a place where hope abounds and an indomitable spirit is on constant display in our clinics and hallways, Sept. 21, 2012 marks a new chapter in our 71-year history.
Today we take another step -- make that a giant leap -- toward fulfilling our mission of Making Cancer History.
With this morning's launch of our Moon Shots Program, we set forth on a bold new course that will better enable us to convert scientific discoveries into clinical applications and to more quickly and directly benefit the patients who turn to us for help, for hope and for cure.
Inspired by President John Kennedy's historic speech here in Houston 50 years ago this month that both challenged and propelled America's space program to reach the moon within a decade, our Moon Shots Program is equally ambitious -- and achievable, aiming to significantly increase patient survival and reduce suffering over the next decade.
- Acute myeloid leukemia/myelodysplastic syndrome
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
- Lung cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Triple-negative breast cancer and ovarian cancer -- two cancers linked at the molecular level
The platforms will be staffed by cross-functional professional teams charged with executing in a goal-oriented, milestone-driven manner to convert knowledge into drugs, tests, devices and policies that can benefit patients as quickly as possible.
This backbone of directed activity and focused implementation by the platforms will be embedded within the rich fabric of academic science and clinical medicine in the moon shots teams that will continually advance the fundamental understanding of cancer to enable its ultimate eradication.
Although eight cancers have been specifically targeted, that's not to say progress against other cancer types will stagnate or that patients battling them won't benefit.
In fact, the Moon Shots Program is geared for broad impact; as knowledge is gained, new approaches are perfected and patient-centric advances are put into practice with each moon shot, they will be applied to other cancers. Further, the capabilities and expertise of the platforms will be enabling for all programs.
With a shared "intent to cure" purpose, each moon shot team, enabled by the platforms, will focus on:
- Personalized treatment
- Informed prediction and real-time assessment of the effect of therapies
- Effective prevention and risk-management strategies
- Significant advances in diagnostics and early detection
- Reduced treatment-related side effects that are detrimental to patients
Each team and platform will be expected to deliver. Each will have aggressive milestones to demonstrate progress toward impact for patients. Each will be expected to nurture ideas and expedite proposals that show promise while wisely, and quickly, moving beyond those that don't.
I'm excited and MD Anderson is energized by the transformational new model our Moon Shots Program represents because it's time we "change the game" in eradicating cancer, which will claim an estimated 100 million lives worldwide this decade -- more than those claimed by cardiovascular disease, tuberculosis, HIV and malaria combined.
Considering the unparalleled convergence of knowledge and technological advances in recent years, there's no better time for this game-changing approach to go beyond discovery and deliver solutions to finally put this disease in the record books.
We need to be more bold, more nimble and more effective. And with our Moon Shots Program we will be. Our patients are counting on us to take this one giant leap for mankind.