Collaboration essential for Cancer Moonshot success
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In a time of unprecedented division and uncertainty in the American body politic, it is a relief, and even a joy, to encounter a topic where all Americans can enthusiastically agree to work together: the Cancer Moonshot. At Mayo Clinic, we believe that leadership in the global fight against cancer — one of the most complex and important endeavors that humanity will ever undertake — is not just our work, it is our calling.

Mayo Clinic applauds the promise that President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaAll five living former presidents to attend hurricane relief concert Overnight Health Care: Schumer calls for tying ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance | Puerto Rico's water woes worsen | Dems plead for nursing home residents' right to sue Interior moves to delay Obama’s methane leak rule MORE and Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenReport: Biden to write foreword for memoir by transgender activist Biden to Alabama: No more extremist senators Kasich, Biden to hold discussion on bipartisanship MORE have made to redouble the nation’s efforts through this program. That is why is it is so crucial to approach this endeavor with the right tools and a collaborative mindset that will position us for success. The stakes are too high to risk missing out on the lessons learned over the past decades of research and delivery of cancer care. 

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As the world’s first and largest integrated group practice, Mayo Clinic has more than 150 years of experience witnessing the power of collaboration to improve the lives of patients. This collaborative, patient-centered approach has been essential to the many innovations we have developed, including those in cancer care. In this role, we have learned three things: 

Breakthroughs don’t happen in a vacuum.

Stopping cancer as we know it cannot be done in isolation. Instead, as a nation we must harness the combined efforts of our most talented scientists, clinicians, advocates, and all who are willing to dedicate themselves to solving this devastating problem. 

Breakthroughs require a discovery – translation – application paradigm.

Ideas and inspiration are not enough to cure cancer. Hypotheses must be tested and refined. Discoveries in the lab must be translated into clinical trials. The results of these trials must be refined and developed further into applications that improve the lives of patients in the real world. Only by creating an infrastructure that supports each stage of this continuum to ensure continuity of development will breakthroughs be able to come to market and make a difference for those most in need. A dedicated focus to each step of the process is essential to ensure success. We cannot fail in this endeavor simply because a link in the chain was neglected. 

Breakthroughs require resources.

The 1 billion dollars that the White House has committed to the Cancer Moonshot is a significant investment that will produce exponential benefits for the nation and the globe. With that said, the investment is small relative to what will be needed to win this fight. We must find a way for both the public and the private sector to pool resources and share successes. 

These three lessons have been fundamental to the work at Mayo Clinic, where we not only accept the calling to treat patients with cancer, but where we also lead with innovative discoveries — diagnostic, pharmaceutical, biologic, surgical and procedural — that provide tangible benefits to millions.

A recent example that highlights the positive, multiplicative effect of our collaboration approach is Cologuard®, a noninvasive, multi-target stool DNA screening test for colorectal cancer. Introduced in 2014, Cologuard® was the first device to undergo parallel approval by both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

This great leap forward in screening for colorectal cancer — the third most commonly diagnosed and the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. — would not have been possible in an oncology-only practice. Our teams of scientists, clinicians and other staff, representing numerous disciplines and expertise, along with Exact Sciences, a valued industry collaborator, were able to rapidly translate a discovery in the lab into a new application that is easier and more accurate than previous screening options.

The success of the Cancer Moonshot depends on the nation’s ability to foster this same commitment to patient-centered, collaborative innovation at every stage of action.

From advancing discoveries by focusing on unmet patient needs, to bridging basic science into clinical trials, to driving innovation, commercialization and rapidly scaling breakthroughs, each advance will be possible only through collaborative engagement. If we are to succeed, once again, in shooting for the moon, we must come together as a nation undivided in our commitment to our mission. 

Dr. Gregory J. Gores is Executive Dean of Research, and Dr. Robert B. Diasio is Director of the Cancer Center at the Mayo Clinic.