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What Does Joe Biden's Cancer Moonshot Really Mean to South Texas Patients?

Texas cancer surgeon explains the Vice President's calling to end cancer as we know it

· Cancer,Cancer Surgeon,Moonshot

The Cancer Moonshot Government Initiative

In his final State of the Union address this past January, President Obama appointed Vice President Joe Biden to head a government initiative to end cancer as we know it. The Cancer Moonshot program is committed to doubling the rate of progress towards a cure for cancer. According to data on www.whitehouse.gov (Fact Sheet for the Cancer Moonshot), there are 39 Task Force initiatives currently in the works to achieve the goal of curing

cancer. They range from making clinical research trials more accessible to cancer patients to creation of an open access resource for sharing cancer data to private sector commitments to further research. All of this is happening in order to find a cure for cancer.

We might say that these 39 initiatives will not necessarily touch the average person’s life, because the efforts are going to help advance research and scientific discovery. On Sept. 7, the Washington Post reported that a blue ribbon panel of the Cancer Moonshot Program delivered 10 ideas to Vice President Biden. These 10 ideas are recommendations that can be accomplished quickly and that can make an immediate difference for the average cancer patient undergoing treatment today, even those in smaller communities like those South Texas towns so many of my patients travel in from.

"One of the most important of the 10 ideas is the creation of a national network that will allow patients all over the country to have their tumors profiled.​"

Tumor Profiling

One of the most important of the 10 ideas is the creation of a national network that will allow patients all over the country to have their tumors profiled. This gives researchers tons of information about different cancers that can tell us what treatments work, how different cancers spread and what makes the cancer weaker, so that each patient can get a personalized treatment plan based on their specific cancer’s behavior.

Clinical Trial Network focused on Immune Therapy

Another one of the 10 ideas is to create a clinical trial network that focuses on immune therapy; these drugs are wildly effective against certain cancers by using the body’s own immune system to fight the cancer.

Immune therapy uses the body's own immune system to fight cancer.

Genetic Testing for Inherited Cancers

One of the 10 ideas calls for increased genetic testing to look for inherited cancer syndromes—think Angelina Jolie. Knowing that you have a gene that predisposes you to cancer can give you the opportunity to change your genetic destiny, with increased testing or preventative treatments.

Cancer Prevention

The blue ribbon panel also makes recommendations regarding the prevention of cancer and ideas on how to educate patients and the community on these recommendations. Another part of the Cancer Moonshot initiative was contributed on September 6, 2016 by the American Society of Clinical Oncologists (ASCO). They made three recommendations, but one in particular is worthy of special mention because it affects the minority community.

"They made three recommendations, but one in particular is worthy of special mention because it affects the minority community."

Poor patients, older adults and minorities are underrepresented in clinical trials. One part of the reason for that is that, unlike Medicare and private insurance like Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Medicaid is not required by federal law to cover routine care costs that are billed to patients that are enrolled in clinical trials. So if you want to participate in a clinical study trial for breast cancer, but you have Medicaid, the routine blood tests required by the trial is not covered. You would have to pay for it out of pocket, but who has the money to do that? So you drop out of the study, and poof, there goes the Latina representation in that breast cancer study trial.

The Cancer Moonshot is ambitious for sure, but there are things being done already that are improving the care of the average community cancer in San Antonio, Laredo, Corpus Chrisi, McAllen/Brownsville, and all over South Texas. I am so thrilled.

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