How Trump can aim the ‘Cancer Moonshot’ toward the stars

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A suggestion for President-elect Trump while he’s draining the Washington swamp: Don’t always throw out the baby with the swamp water.

He’s already indicated that he’s willing to do that with the Affordable Care Act, since he now seems open to retaining some of its components, such as insurance for those with preexisting health conditions and expanded coverage for some young adults under their parents’ policies.

{mosads}Another area he should review carefully — and critically — is the future of President Obama’s “Cancer Moonshot” initiative, which launched with highly political overtones at January’s State of the Union address and has been fraught with partisan overtones ever since, including the assumption that Vice President Joe Biden’s leadership would continue after he leaves office.

But unfortunately, neither Biden’s role nor the initiative itself has ever been secure because of its partisan birth and less-than-scientific momentum of bringing aboard those with political ties and some vested interests, not including those who might truly have helped change the landscape of cancer research and treatment.

During the course of this past year, in this publication and others, the authors have tried to shed a little more light on both the initiative and its process, and a number of efforts to ask questions of officials have not been successful.

One of our main concerns is the failure to secure bipartisan support at the outset instead of jumpstarting the process as a overstated promise that America would alone be “the country that cures cancer once and for all” — a nationalistic statement that was quietly toned down as more realistic voices reminded the administration that cancer is a global issue and that scientific and clinical expertise knows no borders.

Promises were made and, even if progress was forthcoming, it was always limited by the absence of congressional funding, which was akin to putting the cart before the horse.

So, Mr. President-elect, here are a few of our suggestions regarding Moonshot:

• Weigh the value of important public health initiatives, which are not just limited to cancer.

• Take seriously the permanent appointment of a director of the National Cancer Institute who can help lead the nation’s cancer research program.

• Determine objectively, realistically and meaningfully what can be done in the best interests of our country’s and the world’s health.

• Select the most qualified individuals regardless of their party affiliation or friends and allies, encourage collaborations, and hold everyone involved accountable to produce a realistic road map to productive scientific, medical and prevention research leading to effective treatments and interventions.

• Show all those who have backed Moonshot, and are now concerned about its future because of the election results, that your interests in health transcends those of politics.

• And, please, please, appeal to the good sense and responsible stewardship of members from both sides of the aisle in both houses of Congress to do the right thing, acting in the best interests of cancer care in this country and around the world.

Brinker, founder of Susan G. Komen, the world’s largest breast cancer charity, has served as U.S. ambassador to Hungary, U.S. chief of protocol, and as a Goodwill Ambassador for Cancer Control to the U.N.’s World Health Organization. She is now continuing her work in media and consulting and has taken a leave of absence from Komen’s board.

Rosenthal is an independent journalist who covers issues, controversies and trends in oncology as special correspondent for MedPage Today. He is the founder of the National Cancer Institute-Designated Cancer Centers Public Affairs Network and helped organize a number of national medicine-and-the-media conferences.

Both Brinker and Rosenthal have been co-chairing cancer forums for the Concordia Summit. The opinions expressed belong solely to the authors.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

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