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MD Anderson Makes 'Omics a Major Component of New Program to Reduce Cancer Deaths

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center on Thursday announced a major initiative that includes genomics components to accelerate scientific discovery into clinical advances in order to reduce the number of cancer deaths.

Dubbed the Moon Shots Program — a reference to President John F. Kennedy's 1962 speech about the US space program ambitions — the initiative will create cross-functional teams "working in a goal-oriented, milestone-driven manner to convert knowledge into tests, devices, drugs, and policies that can benefit patients as quickly as possible," MD Anderson said in a statement.

The cost of the Moon Shots Program may reach $3 billion in its first 10 years. Funding will come from institutional earnings, philanthropy, competitive research grants, and commercialization of new discoveries. Work done as part of the program will support other cancer research being performed at MD Anderson.

The program's focus initially will be on eight cancers — acute myeloid leukemia/myelodysplastic syndrome; chronic lymphocytic leukemia; melanoma; lung cancer; prostate cancer; and triple-negative breast and ovarian cancers, two cancers that are linked at the molecular level, MD Anderson said. Six teams have been formed to address the eight cancers to evaluate current scientific knowledge of the disease "across the entire cancer care continuum from prevention to survivorship."

The teams will have access to 12 institution-wide scientific and technical platforms designed to support the Moon Shot Program. The programs include Adaptive Learning in Genomics Medicine, a work flow for clinicians and researchers to integrate real-time patient clinical information and research genomic data; Big Data for capture, storing, and processing the huge amounts of data, especially that from next-generation sequencing; Clinical Genomics, an infrastructure to bank and process tumor specimens for clinical tests that may be useful in guiding medical decisions; Diagnostics Development for developing tests to guide targeted therapy; Patient Omics, which will centralize the collection of patient biospecimens for profiling genes and proteins and identifying mutations that can guide personalized treatment decisions and predict therapy toxicity; and Early Detection, which will use imaging and proteomic technologies for biomarker discovery related to early stage cancers.

The platforms also include Cancer Control and Prevention; Center for Co-Clinical Trials; Institute for Applied Cancer Science; Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy; Massive Data Analytics; and Translational Research Continuum.

Each moon shot team will be provided funds and resources to do research prioritized in terms of its potential impact on patients, MD Anderson said.

Implementation of the Moon Shots Program will begin in February 2013 and will be completely up and running by mid-2013, MD Anderson said.