M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston has announced an initiative it calls the "Moon Shots Program" to greatly increase the survival rates for a eight selected cancers, to cost $3 billion over the next 10 years.
The cancers that have been targeted for research, according to M.D. Anderson, are acute myeloid leukemia/myelodysplastic syndrome, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, melanoma, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and triple-negative breast and ovarian cancers -- two cancers linked at the molecular level.
Death rates from targeted cancers
According to an account on the "Moon Shots" initiative in the Houston Chronicle, 750,000 new cases are diagnosed each year in the eight cancers in the United States as well as 260,000 deaths.
Six "Moon Shot" teams selected
M.D. Anderson reports that six "Moon Shot" teams have been selected to attack the selected cancers, ranging from research and development into prevention to enhancing survival rates, Each team will receive an infusion of funds and other resources for the 10-year effort.
Why such an effort now?
According to the Houston Chronicle, M.D. Anderson President Dr. Ronald DePinho suggested that researchers have acquired the tools they need, thanks to the past 10 years of work on cancers, to at the very least greatly reduce the death rates from the cancers targeted but possibly to find actual cures.
One possible tool that could be used, to fight cancers, is the use of gene therapy, either to enhance healthy cells' ability to fight cancer or to destroy cancer cells from within, according to the National Cancer Institute. Another promising area of research, according to an article on the Discovery Channel website, is the use of nanobots to deliver cancer drugs directly to a tumor. Not only would this method more efficiently deliver cancer-fighting drugs to where they are needed, but would also alleviate the damage done to surrounding healthy cells as the result of standard chemotherapy.
Why the term "Moon Shot?"
"Moon shot" refers to the Apollo program of the 1960s, which was initiated by President John F. Kennedy, to land a man on the moon and return him safely to the Earth. The success of the Apollo program partly inspired that passing of the National Cancer Act in 1971, which Time Magazine called "Cancer's Apollo Program." This marked the beginning of a now 40-year-plus government funded program to alleviate and eventually cure cancer sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. M.D. Anderson, according to the Houston Chronicle account, shies away from any promise that its "Moon Shot" program will definitely cure the targeted cancers. It will also use private as well as government funding. Other cancers may be added to the initiative as time goes on.
Texas resident Mark Whittington writes about state issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.
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