Although it’s easy to become jaded about the prospects for positive change in any bureaucracy, we are feeling decidedly upbeat about the developments underway on the federal level concerning the cancer research behemoth.
The Cancer Moonshot initiative, led by Vice President Joe Biden in the wake of his son’s death from brain cancer, has started the most robust national conversation about the disease that we have had since the days of Richard Nixon. The goals identified through that effort have now been incorporated into the recently enacted 21st Century Cures Act.
One of the most far-reaching of these goals is the plan for creating a “data ecosystem” where clinical and genomic information about patients can be stored, analyzed, and leveraged for outcomes and drug discovery. That will be a Herculean task, a technological challenge that will dwarf the hurdles we’ve seen thus far in implementing electronic records systems.
This foray into Big Data, a term we are hearing quite frequently these days, is an important piece of this effort to accelerate cancer research. That is why we sought out key oncology leaders for their thoughts about these plans, which we present in this issue of OncologyLive as our cover story, “The Big Picture for 2017: 6 Experts Weigh In.”
In the clinical arena, we also have big changes to anticipate this year. That will be the continued developments in anticancer immunotherapy. Although the checkpoint blockade agents have been most successful thus far, research presented at the 2016 ASH Annual Meeting indicates progress is being made in other areas. Our conference coverage section features an overview of the latest findings, “CAR Therapies Gain Spotlight at ASH Conference.” If this class of genetically engineered antibodies continues to succeed, we will be looking at multiple new therapies in the next several years.
Many issues must be sorted out before either Big Data or novel CAR therapies have an impact on clinical practice. Perhaps the best approach starts with the real-world sensibilities that oncology specialists bring to the office daily: what can we do now to help our patients today and tomorrow?
As we start another year, we look forward with gratitude and hope. Please let us know what you’re thinking and, as always, thank you for reading.