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Coordination Among Moonshot Concerns

While the Cancer Moonshot Initiative in the US may bring wanted money into the field, Nature News's Erika Check Hayden writes that it has to come with good coordination among projects, both basic and clinical.

"There's a lack of overt leadership, and in the absence of a logical strategy we have a tendency to throw plates of spaghetti against the wall and hope it sticks," Ira Mellman, the vice president of cancer immunology at Genentech, tells her.

There are worries that with all of this rather sudden attention on cancer and, particularly, on immunotherapies, private- and government-funded projects will have different goals and limited cooperation.

Douglas Lowy, the acting director of the National Cancer Institute, notes though that people who are leading initiatives at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center are also serving on the government advisory panel. That, among other undertakings, he adds, should help ensure there won't be a duplication of effort between what the panel recommends and private initiatives are pursuing.

Researchers also are concerned that there isn't enough of a focus on basic cancer research or on the need for better data sharing, Check Hayden says. But, she notes, that message seems to be getting through to Vice President Joe Biden, who is spearheading the moonshot program, as he mentioned the issue at the recent American Association for Cancer Research meeting. Lowy adds that NCI plans to unveil a Genomic Data Commons in June to store data on cancer patients.