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Dec 14, 2016

#PhilipsChat: the challenges facing the Cancer Moonshot

Estimated reading time: 4-6 minutes

The Cancer Moonshot – established by former US vice president Joe Biden – is a $1 billion funding initiative intended to speed up the pace in preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer, focusing on new approaches such as using big data, combining treatments, and exploring new ways of treatment such as immunotherapy.

The initiative calls for changing incentives in the research system, enhanced prevention and screening efforts, engaging patients as ‘partners in research’ with easy ways to share health information, expanded access to care and new therapies, and addressing rising drug prices. It has already resulted in various public-private partnerships to share research faster, support innovation, and encourage a greater sense of collaboration. It also has boosted patients’ ability to participate in clinical research.


As part of our campaign blog series for World Cancer Day, we have looked at the progress of the Cancer Moonshot and how a new era of clinical collaboration, data sharing and problem solving could achieve the project’s objectives.


We then turned our focus to the key trends in 2017 that may move the needle forwards. Our concluding blog draws together ideas and thoughts from contributors to our Twitter chat on the same topic. Below we have collated some interesting opinions shared during this #PhilipsChat.  

1. What are the biggest milestones we achieved in the efforts to find a cure for cancer?

The ability to provide high-quality diagnostics, new care programs and the rise of immunotherapy – harnessing the immune system to attack cancer – are all areas our experts cited as key milestones in the efforts to find a cure for cancer. Experts also queried what the biggest accomplishments were – whether they were, in fact, technological or awareness programs, or progress made in research.


“Surely the innovations of the last three years in providing better diagnostics, earlier and more sensitive, will bring a lot of momentum,” tweeted Joop van den Heuvel, Field Marketing Director, Philips Oncology 

cancer moonshot tweets

2. Who should contribute to achieve Cancer Moonshot?

Discussion ebbed and flowed about the roles and responsibilities in reaching the ambitious goals of the Cancer Moonshot. Companies, hospitals and public institutions are all highlighted as key players and their ability to collaborate effectively could be critical in the initiative’s outcomes. Patient support groups and families have an important contribution to make too. Dr. Harsha Doddihal, an oncologist and co-founder of Prana Healthcare Enablers in India, said everyone has a role to play, but ultimately we need to make more noise. “Contribution will be required from everyone to achieve the cancer moonshot,” he said. 

We first need to create enough noise, which is collect multiple data points, understand the non-linear interaction of them, and maybe we will find some signals. Today we are far away from that.

3. How can big data play a role in achieving Cancer Moonshot?

Our experts agreed that, in today’s open information age, big data will play an important role in how and whether the Cancer Moonshot’s objectives are met. Arguing for a bigger role for big data throughout the care cycle, Joop van den Heuvel suggested we could create better plans and treatment options by harnessing it. But with more knowledge comes complexity – could big data also be misused or misinterpreted if it fell into the wrong hands? That question was also raised. And then answered.

cancer moonshot tweets 2

4. How can you enable your staff and colleagues to achieve Cancer Moonshot together?

All contributors to our discussion zoned in on the role of staff education and training in rising to meet the challenge of the Cancer Moonshot. Dr. Doddihal recommended motivating all colleagues to ensure that every data point is captured – good or bad – so that “we start understanding what we are doing and how we need to change”. More engagement is necessary.

5. How can you enable your patients to take part in achieving Cancer Moonshot?

More participation is also needed. The Association for Community Cancer Centers tweeted that we need to find effective ways to talk to and listen to patients. More examples need to be shared from both the healthcare industry and the community, said Joop van den Heuvel. “Evidence-based research and data can propel this field,” he added. Dr. Doddihal said: “Democratization of data is needed, so faster and better analysis of the same sets of data can be done. #Cancermoonshot sustains when everyone is involved.”


Do you think it’s worth pursuing the Cancer Moonshot initiative after the end of the Obama administration? And what would you do to keep the momentum and advance this program?

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Innovation matters team

Innovation Matters delivers news, opinions and features about healthcare, and is focused on the professionals who work within the industry, as well as Philips as a cutting-edge health technology organization.

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