MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program: 5 things to know
Andrew Futreal, Ph.D.
While its name was inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s ambitious goal to put a man on the moon, the Moon Shots Program™, which was first inspired by MD Anderson's fourth full-time president Ronald DePinho, M.D., has a different objective: to quickly and effectively turn scientific discoveries into advances in cancer care.
Here are five things that we’d like patients and caregivers to know about the Moon Shots Program.
1. It’s a unique initiative
Cancer is a very complicated disease. While we’ve made tremendous advances in our understanding of how it works in the past decade or so, the traditional academic medical setting makes it hard to bring experts together to translate this knowledge in a way that impacts patients. The Moon Shots Program was conceived around the idea that we could improve patients’ lives faster if we brought together experts from various areas, and armed them with key resources to better utilize new knowledge. This is what the Moon Shots Program does.
It’s about team-based approaches to key problems in cancer. It’s about bringing together experts from many areas in a unique community empowered by research platforms that provide resources that are ordinarily difficult to obtain in the traditional academic medical research setting. With regular scientific review of our processes and progress, our goal is to achieve measurable impacts for patients. It’s about leveraging generous philanthropic support to tackle research areas and clinical initiatives that might otherwise be difficult to fund and drive. It’s about the Moon Shot™ teams using this support to gain new funding from additional sources so we can help more patients.
2. We’ve made significant progress towards cancer care since launch
Since its launch in 2012, the Moon Shots Program has made some major advancements in cancer care. Below are just a few examples of the progress that’s been made since the program launched five years ago.
These initial 13 Moon Shots™ also enable us to learn more about other cancer types, because advances made in one cancer type can impact others. For instance, what we learn from these initial 13 cancer types can help us understand:
the role of mutations that are common across tumor types
shared patterns of the immune response
factors that cause cancer to progress
benefits of reducing common risk factors
4. The program relies on 10 research platforms
The research platforms are key to the entire program and unique to the effort. They give the Moon Shots Program the unique capability to go from discovery all the way to interventions and treatments that impact patients’ lives. They provide the Moon Shots with the technology needed to advance science and medicine, with expert staffing and resources. Through these platforms, the Moon Shots have direct access to several important capabilities and areas of expertise that aren’t typically available to academic researchers, including:
Prevention and outreach
Cancer genetics and proteomics
Preclinical cancer modeling
Storage, processing and use of massive amounts of medical and scientific information
5. The program impacts the full cancer care continuum
Developing new treatment options is a major focus of the Moon Shots Program, but our efforts aren’t limited to cancer treatment. With ongoing research projects focused on prevention, early detection, treatment and survivorship, the Moon Shots Program aims to impact patients at every stage of cancer care.