Washington, DC — A first-ever benchmark report by Elsevier on the landscape of cancer research in the US will provide key support for the Cancer Moonshot initiative, which was the focus of a summit hosted by US Vice President Joe Biden at Howard University June 29.
Part of a “national day of action,” the Cancer Moonshot Summit was held concurrently with more than 270 events in communities across the United States, Puerto Rico and Guam.
Elsevier Publisher Dr. Lily Khidr joined more than 350 researchers, oncologists and other care providers, data and technology experts, policy makers, patients, families and patient advocates, among others. The White House said the event was the first time a group this expansive and diverse met under a government charge to double the rate of progress in our understanding, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care of cancer.
“The excitement was clearly palpable,” said Dr. Khidr, a cancer researcher who has transitioned into publishing. “Being able to talk with some of the other institutions and companies who have committed to working with the initiative was the most exciting. It was incredibly valuable to be able to see some of the scientists and researchers who contribute to Elsevier’s journals, and to talk to government officials entrusted with the Moonshot initiative.”
Dr. Khidr said the meeting was packed from start to finish, with the audience fully participating and thoroughly engaged. The summit really had the air of a daylong working session with a heightened sense of urgency. The legendary comedian Carol Burnett shared her personal story of losing her daughter to cancer. Many in the audience had personal cancer-related stories, Dr. Khidr said, because cancer is a disease that can affect anyone, at any time, anywhere.
Biden gave the keynote and concluding speeches. “His remarks ran the gamut from deeply personal to full of his typical ‘can-do’ inspiring spirit,” Dr. Khidr said:
He admitted to knowing far more about foreign policy than about cancer. However since President Obama’s announcement at the State of the Union Address about this Moonshot effort, many of Biden’s conversations abroad with foreign leaders have been about eradicating this undiscriminating disease. Biden said he found that other world leaders also expressed a desire to participate in the Cancer Moonshot mission and are looking to the US for leadership.
Dr. Khidr was a cancer editor at Nature Genetics and Science Translational Medicine before joining Elsevier as a publisher in 2010. Her journey began early when her only sister was diagnosed with a sporadic brain tumor. “Glioblastoma is a fancy name for a brain tumor that kills, and no one should ever have to hear those words,” Dr. Khidr said. “When my sister heard it, she like many other patients said the same thing to me and my family: ‘Don’t worry, I will be okay, I’m tough.’ But the cancer was tougher.
“Ever since then, I haven’t forgotten or given up that unrelenting sense of toughness on this disease, for her and for the many other families who have felt that same devastating pain of loss from the convoluted directionless trajectory that cancer takes us on. I believe the science is there – we just have to connect the dots, remove the barriers and make it happen. That’s actually why I chose to work in publishing — so I can see and read everything on the topic and bring the right people from across the globe to work together. This disease is simply too evil to stop trying, and we have to do everything we can, every day, to stop this. I know I am.”
Speakers throughout the day emphasized that time is of the essence in eradicating cancer. Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall, Executive VP and Chief Medical Officer of Pfizer, rhetorically asked, “Why now should we be galvanizing all sectors to achieve this unifying goal?” to explain that one simply does not have time upon receiving such a devastating diagnosis.
Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia, Director of The Marble Center of Cancer Nanomedicine at MIT, talked about her moonshot dream: a vision that one day using nanotechnology, cancer prediction could be “so sensitive and miniaturized to a single urine test trip, just like predicting pregnancies today.”
One section of the daylong summit pertained to what Biden and Cancer Moonshot Executive Director Greg Simon said was a need for a better “map of the data” to use technology for a humanitarian goal. But the way each person defines data is different, according to their experience – some say “raw data,” others talk about “patient data,” and still others speak about “macrodata” or “big data.” Infrastructure and barrier issues were another major theme – finding solutions to get impediments out of the way, or to get data from one place to another securely and quickly.
Elsevier’s upcoming cancer research report
To help the Cancer Moonshot initiative achieve its goals, Elsevier had proposed to work with the White House Task Force to conduct a first-ever, data-driven analysis around the central theme of collaboration, identifying which research collaborations are working well and which areas are proving to be more challenging.
The Elsevier report will provide a road map of the cancer research landscape to identify pockets of expertise and opportunity and will be made available for free. It is intended to equip the leaders of the Cancer Moonshot Initiative and other public and private interests with the data and analytics necessary to make informed decisions about research investments that will accelerate cancer activities while mitigating some of the investment risk and achieve a decade’s worth of advances in five years.
“Because cancer is a large, diverse and continually evolving, it’s extremely challenging to figure out where the research opportunities and challenges are,” said project lead Dr. Brad Fenwick, Elsevier’s Senior VP for Global Alliances. “For the Cancer Moonshot initiative, we’ll provide data on the current state of cancer research and the impact from the large data sets and research collaborations. Ultimately the report will provide a pathway to the most promising outcomes that will affect the greatest number of people.”
Elsevier will underwrite the study and will use a citation-based approach to identify interdisciplinary research, as well as measure the frequency and value of interdisciplinary collaborations to identify centers of expertise by institution as well as geographically. This will ensure the report fully captures the dynamics of a research landscape in which subjects are constantly emerging and changing. The report should be completed in the fall and will be freely available.
The research team for the report will use Elsevier’s SciVal, a powerful research platform that provides access to the research performance of 7,500 research institutions and 220 nations worldwide. SciVal will enable the report’s viewers to visualize research performance, discover research trends, and see where potential collaborations might exist. The team will also use Scopus, the largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature (scientific journals, books and conference proceedings). Giving a comprehensive overview of the world's research output in the fields of science, technology, medicine, social sciences, and arts and humanities, Scopus features smart tools to track, analyze and visualize research.
Elsevier’s study of cancer research will be one of a series of reports developed by the SciVal team at Elsevier in the past year that includes stem cell research, brain science, sustainability science and other topics. These reports are used by funding bodies, policy makers, and research organizations to evaluate current progress and chart future actions through informed decisions about needed policies and investments.
Other institutions and companies involved
Along with Elsevier and its benchmark report, many other private-sector commitments were announced at the summit in response to the vice president’s call to action. From Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (well known to and supported by Elsevier’s Philadelphia office), to the American Cancer Society, Creative Commons, IBM and the Department of Veterans Affairs, and an organization called Syapse, which was joined by Intermountain Healthcare, Stanford Cancer Institute, Providence Health & Services, Catholic Health Initiative and Henry Ford Health System to launch OPeN, the Oncology Precision Network.
Other cancer initiatives at Elsevier
- Elsevier recently published the eBook Oncology Informatics, edited by Drs. David Ahern, Bradford Hesse and Ellen Beckjord. Dr. Hesse, Chief of the Health Communication and Informatics Research Branch of the National Cancer Institute at the NIH, was featured in our parent company’s 2015 RELX Annual Report (page 20). Oncology Informatics has played a pivotal role in shaping the President’s Cancer Panel report, which will be released in September. Drs. Hesse and Ahern are panel members and have been moderating discussions and finding solutions to how we can create a better connected health system and a more patient-centered approach to cancer prevention, treatment and survivorship by leveraging data-driven technology. For more on Oncology Informatics, see the coverage on Elsevier Connect.
- The latest Huffington Post blog by Olivier Dumon, Elsevier’s Managing Director for Research Products, is also about cancer research. In “Innovations in Science: Pursuing another Giant Leap for Mankind,” Dumon writes about how collaboration, technology and economics will play vital roles in future cancer research.
- Dr. William Gunn, Head of Academic Outreach at Mendeley, and Dr. Sheila Chari, Reviews Editor of Cell Stem Cell, attended a Cancer Moonshot satellite event at the University of Southern California (USC). After listening to presentations of USC initiatives, including the iMPACT project of the Lazarex Cancer Foundation and Cancerbase, Dr. Gunn had the opportunity to introduce himself and Sheila and talk about how Mendeley might help the Moonshot effort as it facilitates data sharing and collaboration, a major theme of the Moonshot.
What is the Cancer Moonshot?
In his final State of the Union address in February, President Barack Obama put Vice President Joseph Biden in charge of a new national effort to end cancer as we know it. The goal of this Cancer Moonshot is to double the rate of progress toward a cure – to make a decade of advances in cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care in five years.
Since then, the president has issued a presidential memorandum establishing a first-of-its-kind Cancer Moonshot Task Force bringing together every federal agency that has a part to play in the fight against cancer. Agencies are convening under the leadership of Biden to ensure that we make the most of our federal investments, research and data, computing capabilities, targeted incentives, private-sector efforts, and patient-engagement initiatives.
In February, the White House announced a $195 million investment at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Fiscal Year 2016 as part of a proposed nearly $1 billion budget initiative for the Cancer Moonshot.
- For more about the Cancer Moonshot and the initiatives, institutions and companies involved, see the initiative’s Medium Publication or visit the White House Cancer Moonshot website.
- Read the press release announcing Elsevier’s benchmark report for the Cancer Moonshot initiative.