In FOCUS with ASCT: The National Cancer Moonshot Program


A look at the special task force tasked to aid in the cancer moonshot program.

During the 2016 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama announced a new program called the National Cancer Moonshot. He asked Vice President Joe Biden to head a task force that would end cancer as we know it. The overall goals of the Moonshot are to accelerate cancer research and improve our ability to prevent, detect and treat cancer.1,2

On January 28th, the president officially established the White House Cancer Moonshot Task Force. The vice president chairs the task force, which is composed of the heads of various federal agencies and departments, such as the Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Department of Energy, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) among others. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) was tasked with providing funding and administrative support to the task force.1,3

The task force serves an advisory role only. Specifically, it has been asked to advise on ways to:

  • Accelerate our understanding of cancer, and its prevention, early detection, treatment and cure
  • Improve patient access and care
  • Support greater access to new research, data and computational capabilities
  • Encourage development of cancer treatments
  • Identify and address any unnecessary regulatory barriers and consider ways to expedite administrative reforms
  • Ensure optimal investment of federal resources
  • Identify opportunities to develop public-private partnerships and increase coordination of the federal government’s efforts with the private sector, as appropriate.3

The members of the task force work together and may form subgroups to achieve these goals. They also engage in public outreach by consulting with patients, their families, caregivers, state and local government officials, charitable organizations and other interested parties.

In order to better collaborate with experts outside of the federal government, the task force established a Blue Ribbon Panel of Experts that is composed of experts from relevant scientific specialties. This panel is part of the National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB), the members of which are appointed by the president. The NCAB advises the director of the NCI on the panel’s recommendations for future programs and policies. The NCI director relays that information to the task force.3

On February 1st of this year, the White House announced that it was investing $1 billion dollars in the Moonshot program. $195 million was allocated to the NIH for “new cancer activities” during the 2016 fiscal year.4 For fiscal year 2017, $755 million will be budgeted for the NIH and the FDA to be used for cancer research. Additionally, the VA and DoD will be increasing the amount of money they allocate toward cancer research by investing in centers of excellence that focus on specific cancers, as well as broader studies on risk factors and treatment enhancements.

HHS will allocate the money given to the NIH and FDA toward specific objectives, including:

  • Cancer prevention and vaccine development
  • Early cancer detection
  • Immunotherapy and combination therapy
  • Genomic analysis of tumors and cells from surrounding tissue
  • Enhanced data sharing
  • An FDA oncology center of excellence
  • Pediatric cancer research
  • A proposed Vice President’s Exceptional Opportunities in Cancer Research fund.4

Throughout the past year, the task force and the blue ribbon panel have been working on achieving these objectives in a variety of creative ways—from increased collaboration between government agencies to public outreach. In June, the vice president held a Cancer Moonshot Summit in Washington, D.C. Close to 400 clinicians, researchers, patients and their family members and advocates met there and were joined by over 7,000 participants who met at local summit sites, such as hospitals, community centers and businesses throughout the country. The summit was a call to action, meant to engage state and local governments, businesses and individuals to drive this effort forward. The result was over 50 new collaborative projects and other initiatives that will help the task force meet its goals.5

On October 17th, the vice president issued the Cancer Moonshot Report, which summarized progress to date and laid out plans for the future.5 The report contained three elements: the Vice President’s Executive Report, which is “his vision for transforming the cancer research and care ecosystem to double the rate of progress in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment;”6 the Cancer Moonshot Task Force Report, which described the work being done by federal agencies; and the Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel Report, which listed areas of scientific research that should be prioritized.6

In his report, the vice president explained that the Cancer Moonshot program is not a new war on cancer, but rather an attempt to win the war we began in the 1970’s. We are now at a point where advances in technology and medical expertise have given us the tools to do so. He went on to detail the challenges and opportunities facing this effort; namely a need for better coordination and information sharing between researchers in different fields, as well as changes to how research is funded. He highlighted a number of new projects and initiatives that have started as part of the moonshot program and outlined a strategic plan for the future. The report recommended changes to the structure of research funding, an emphasis on prevention and screening efforts, increased patient engagement as partners in research and expanded access to care.4

It is clear that much has been done over the past year to develop the foundation of the Cancer Moonshot program and create a plan to direct future efforts. To view the reports and find information on how you can get involved, visit: The task force has made impressive progress this year, which will hopefully continue.


  1. National Cancer Institute. (2016). Cancer Moonshot. Retrieved from
  2. The White House, Office of the Press Secretary. (2016, February 1). Fact Sheet: Investing in the National Cancer Moonshot. [Press release] Retrieved from
  3. The White House, Office of the Press Secretary. (2016, January 28). Memorandum – White House Cancer Moonshot Task Force. [Press release] Retrieved from
  4. The White House, Office of the Press Secretary. (2016, February 1). Fact Sheet: Investing in the National Cancer Moonshot. [Press release] Retrieved from
  5. The White House, Office of the Vice President. (2016, October 17). Vice President Cancer Moonshot Executive Report. Retrieved from
  6. The White House (2016). Cancer Moonshot. Retrieved from

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About Author

Eliza Enstine, CT(ASCP)
Eliza Enstine, CT(ASCP)

Eliza Enstine, CT(ASCP), is a representative from ASCT.

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