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Obama's cancer moonshot

President Barack Obama in his final year in office is endorsing a nationwide effort to accelerate the testing of immunotherapy drug combinations to fight cancer. The president announced the project—dubbed Cancer MoonShot 2020—at his last State of the Union address, delivered on January 16. The effort will assemble an Apollo-sized team, known as the National Immunotherapy Coalition (NIC). This will include industry players such as Thousand Oaks, California–based Amgen and Summit, New Jersey–based Celgene, big pharma, and small biotechs like Culver City, California–based NantWorks, as well as oncologists, academic institutions, insurers, and senior officials from the FDA and the National Cancer Institute. Patrick Soon-Shiong, founder and chairman of the group of companies, is the driving force behind the coalition, and Vice President Joe Biden, whose son died of cancer last year, will be leading the moonshot project. The NIC will test more than 60 molecules in different combinations in 20 tumor types. The multitrial initiative aims to enroll 20,000 patients, who will have their whole genomes sequenced and be tested with proteomic diagnostics to match to the appropriate immunotherapies. The coalition could be a boon for the biotech industry, though observers note that Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck and Roche, those with the most advanced immunotherapies, are already running combination trials with anti-PD-1/PD-L1 therapies, and were absent from the proceedings. LM

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Obama's cancer moonshot. Nat Biotechnol 34, 119 (2016).

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