Opening Lines

In May 1961, President Kennedy announced his administration’s goal of putting a man on the moon before the end of the decade. It was a bold challenge, one that inspired an entire generation of Americans to push the boundaries of what was possible. Science, technology, governmental support, and public interest came together remarkably, and on July 20, 1969, NASA’s Apollo 11 mission achieved what was once unthinkable: the first humans on the moon.

Earlier this year, President Obama delivered his own “moonshot” challenge to the nation: to cure cancer as we know it. The National Cancer Moonshot initiative, led by Vice President Biden, seeks to maximize federal and private resources, patient engagement efforts, and other mechanisms to accelerate breakthroughs in cancer research and treatment.

I’m proud to note that on June 29 the University of Iowa joined a select group of cancer centers nationwide that simultaneously held Cancer Moonshot satellite summits. The Iowa event, hosted by Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UI, brought together researchers, oncologists, philanthropists, data and technology experts, advocates, patients, and survivors. Feedback from the summits will help the National Cancer Moonshot team develop a plan to double the rate of progress—that is, to make a decade’s worth of cancer advances over the next five years.

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UI Hospitals and Clinics CEO Ken Kates, UI Carver College of Medicine Executive Dean Patricia Winokur, and VPMA and Dean Jean Robillard

In this issue of Medicine Iowa, you will learn about UI research in cancer immunotherapy, which refers to stimulating the body’s natural defense mechanism to fight the disease. Immunotherapy is not new, and results from past clinical trials have been mixed at best. The UI research, however, centers on an improved understanding of how cancer can “hide” from the immune system and how removing this molecular cloak may hold the key to future immunotherapy success.

Also in this issue you will read about UI expertise with thrombectomy, a new procedure to remove blood clots that’s been called one of the biggest advances in stroke treatment over the past two decades. Plus, we check in with the UI Carver College of Medicine Rural Iowa Scholars Program, launched in 2012 to alleviate the shortage of doctors in Iowa, especially in smaller communities. The first four students to complete the program graduated in May.

This edition of Medicine Iowa also includes a Q&A with Carol Scott-Conner, MD, emeritus professor and former chair of surgery, who leads two committees advising NASA on efforts to improve health and safety on space missions. It’s important work and another example of how UI experts are helping set the stage for future “moonshots”—here on Earth and among the stars.

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Jean Robillard, MD
University of Iowa Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean, UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine