In February, the state of Arizona took another leap forward in its evolution as a national hub of innovation, technology and bioscience. As part of the aspirational Cancer Moonshot 2020 announced by Vice President Joe Biden and spearheaded by renowned doctor and health care entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong, Phoenix Children’s will assume the national lead position for the Pediatrics Consortium of this bold and transformational initiative.
Cancer Moonshot 2020 is the nation’s most comprehensive cancer collaborative initiative aimed at accelerating genomics and immunotherapy as the next-generation standard of care for cancer patients. Its trajectory and vision emulate John F. Kennedy’s historic “man on the moon” call: utilize the nation’s capabilities and resources to their maximum potential with the goal of achieving something never done before.
Cancer’s grip on the health of our nation is overwhelming and disastrous. The National Cancer Institute reports that approximately 40 percent of men and women will be diagnosed at some point during their lifetime. For many, it’s a death sentence.
Sadly, children are profoundly affected, too. Pediatric cancers take the lives of more children than AIDS, asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and congenital anomalies combined, yet pediatric cancer continues to be one of the most overlooked and underfunded categories of all cancer research. In 2016 alone, 10,380 children under the age of 15 will be diagnosed nationwide with this affliction. Cure rates for some pediatric cancers remain below 50 percent, and a full 70 percent of survivors experience serious or even life-threatening side effects later in life from the toxic drugs used to treat their cancer.
The time is ripe for leaders in health care, research, education and the business community to fundamentally change the way we treat cancer.
The pediatric consortium’s primary mission is to advance bench-to-bedside translation of genomic technology to prevent, treat and manage pediatric diseases, first in cancer and then in other conditions. Phoenix Children’s is joined by eight other esteemed children’s hospitals across the country in founding this alliance. Together, we are unified around the vision of the national Cancer Moonshot 2020 of knowledge sharing, collaboration and integration among health care, medical, academic and scientific communities.
And it is no accident that the center of this visionary initiative is the state of Arizona and metro Phoenix. As President Kennedy stated in that daring 1962 speech: “We meet at a college noted for knowledge, in a city noted for progress, in a state noted for strength, and we stand in need of all three, for we meet in an hour of change and challenge.”
Dr. Soon-Shiong and the dedicated professionals associated with this most important endeavor understood that we have the amazing schools noted for knowledge and innovation: Arizona State University, The University of Arizona and others. We are a city noted for progress in economic growth with great companies and extraordinary human talent. And we are a state noted for strength; in our schools and health care and the fiery spirit of entrepreneurship, which has spurred so much of our success.
Phoenix Children’s leads the consortium in this epic climb with the firmly established infrastructure of the Chan Soon-Shiong Children’s Precision Medicine Institute at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
At the heart of Cancer Moonshot 2020 is precision medicine, the new tool to fight cancer. Utilizing genomic sequencing analysis to identify a patient’s genetic and proteomic makeup, bioinformaticians can create a precise therapy based on the individual’s susceptibility to disease and predict the subsequent response to a particular drug. As data is collected and disseminated to researchers, we will develop pharmaceutical combinations that increase potency and efficacy in treating each patient’s cancer.
The Chan Soon-Shiong Children’s Precision Medicine Institute at Phoenix Children’s Hospital offers whole genome sequencing, RNA sequencing and proteomics. As the consortium leader, an advanced technology ecosystem including a High Performance Computing Platform enables the Institute to offer high-throughput, complex genomic analysis to researchers across the country; a direct high-speed fiber connection for rapid transfer of genomic data and a comprehensive cancer population management platform designed not just to collect and analyze clinical data, but to actively assist in the comprehensive clinical management of patients’ lives.
This is all happening here in Arizona – the vibrant and dynamic epicenter of world-class research, innovation and scientific advancement. This is just the beginning, as from around the state, leaders in medicine, education, commerce, political and community organizations will join together in the spirit of collaboration and invention. With each success comes an even more dogged determination to find solutions to the problems that confront us.
Arizona’s incredible talent will drive our progress forward, and at Phoenix Children’s we are honored to pick up the mantle of discovery to find new treatments for cancer. As Kennedy said: “If this capsule history of our progress teaches us anything, it is that man, in his quest for knowledge and progress, is determined and cannot be deterred.”
Robert L. Meyer is president and CEO of Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
Want to hear about what’s going on in Arizona’s healthcare industry? A panel of experts will be talking aerospace and more on Oct. 5 at the HEAT Forum.