About a year ago, I blogged about “going to the moon” as a metaphor for cancer research. More recently, the phrase “cancer moonshot” has taken on new meaning. In his state-of-the-union address, President Obama charged Vice President Biden with refocusing the nation’s effort on cancer and cancer research. To quote the President – “Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer… I’m putting Joe in charge of Mission Control.” The cancer research community was already energized by the amazing potential for cancer research to reduce the pain and suffering caused by cancer at this particularly point in time, and welcomed the renewed focus on cancer research. Nevertheless, there was also a degree of skepticism. Many wondered whether the “cancer moonshot” was another example of politicians over-simplifying the incredible challenge of cancer in the short term. They worried that the result would be raised expectations without significant change or meaningful acceleration of progress in the long term.
The cynics among us might consider me a bit naïve, but I am now convinced the Cancer Moonshot is something different. Evidence is emerging that this initiative may indeed, help us work together in new ways to reach new heights. I have heard the Vice President talk about the Cancer Moonshot a number of times now, and each time his comments are more informed and more on target. His commitment is undeniable, and he has assembled a strong team in a very short period of time. He is clearly a “quick study” and he has been studying hard. He also has applied his knowledge of politics to the issues of “onco-politics.” The cancer research community consists of well-meaning individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to cancer research. As is the case with many human endeavors, the opportunity for cancer research and organizations to work together is sometimes lost when they focus on their particular area of expertise and influence, and lose sight of the big picture. The Vice President has called us out on this, and challenged us to work together in new ways. He has also acknowledged that governmental rules and policies create barriers and slow progress, and has vowed to help address these problems.
The first step to solving a problem is recognizing there is one. The Vice President has helped us take that first step. This can be considered the first stage of the cancer moonshot rocket. This week, we move to the second stage. I will be attending the Cancer Moonshot Summit in Washington DC, and we will be hosting a satellite summit in Iowa City, Iowa. You can participate in the Iowa Moonshot Summit through a live event on the Holden Facebook page. You can also learn more about the Iowa Cancer Moonshot Summit here. This will be an opportunity for a broad range of constituents to share ideas and begin to address the challenges the Vice President has identified. Next week, I’ll report back on the results of the summit. Let’s hope it is a good report, that we can say “all systems are go,” and we are ready ignite the next stage.