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Shooting for the moon: MD Anderson's bold plan aims to put cancer in the history books

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Published on Oct 9, 2012

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center announces the launch of the Moon Shots Program, an unprecedented effort to dramatically accelerate the pace of converting scientific discoveries into clinical advances that reduce cancer deaths.

Even as the number of cancer survivors in the US is expected to reach an estimated 11.3 million by 2015, according to the American Cancer Society, cancer remains one of the most destructive and vexing diseases. An estimated 100 million people worldwide are expected to lose their lives to cancer in this decade alone. The disease's devastation to humanity now exceeds that of cardiovascular disease, tuberculosis, HIV and malaria -- combined.

The Moon Shots Program takes its inspiration from President John Kennedy's famous 1962 speech, made 50 years ago this month at Rice University, just a mile from the main MD Anderson campus. "We choose to go to the moon in this decade ... because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win," Kennedy said.

"Generations later, the Moon Shots Program signals our confidence that the path to curing cancer is in clearer sight than at any other time in history," said Ronald A. DePinho, M.D., MD Anderson's president. "Humanity urgently needs bold action to defeat cancer. I believe that we have many of the tools we need to pick the fight of the 21st century. Let's focus our energies on approaching cancer comprehensively and systematically, with the precision of an engineer, always asking ... 'What can we do to directly impact patients?'"

The Moon Shots Program is among the most formidable endeavors mounted to date by MD Anderson, an institution ranked the No. 1 hospital for cancer care by US News & World Report's Best Hospitals survey for nine of the past 11 years, including 2012. As the program unfolds and grows, it will be woven into all areas of the institution. Researchers and clinicians concentrating on any cancer -- not just the first set of moon shots -- will link to new technological capabilities, data and clinical strategies afforded by the platforms.

In the first 10 years, the cost of the Moon Shots Program may reach an estimated $3 billion. Those funds will come from institutional earnings, philanthropy, competitive research grants and commercialization of new discoveries. They will not interrupt MD Anderson's vast research program in all cancers, with a budget of approximately $700 million annually. In fact, the program's efforts will help support all other cancer research at MD Anderson, particularly with improved resources and infrastructure, as the ultimate goal is to apply knowledge gained from this process to all cancers.

To learn more and make a donation, visit: www.cancermoonshots.org

Please join us in Making Cancer History®

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