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Health IT Essential for the Success of Cancer Moonshot
Surabhi Dangi-Garimella, PhD

Health IT Essential for the Success of Cancer Moonshot

Surabhi Dangi-Garimella, PhD
Gregory C. Simon, executive director, White House Cancer Task Force, spoke at the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Policy Summit in Washington, DC. “Just like the original moonshot, the Cancer Moonshot is about using technology and the resulting information,” he said.
Gregory C. Simon, executive director, White House Cancer Task Force, spoke at the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Policy Summit in Washington, DC. Highlighting the overall progress over the past decade, Simon said, “Every field has advanced, except for the way research has been done at the NIH [National Institutes of Health]. Hardly anything has changed at the NIH since World War II.”

Simon emphasized that there is really no limit on what can be done. “It’s about what we want to do. Changing culture is the most powerful thing on the planet.” He argued that science is not hard; rather, its people who make things difficult. The moonshot, he said, is organized around promoting collaboration between the government and outside players. The National Cancer Advisory Board of the NIH has selected a blue ribbon panel of 29 experts who will create a report for the board, “which reaches the National Cancer Institute and finally to us,” said Simon. The blue ribbon panel will provide guidance on projects that are worth investing in to achieve the objectives of the Cancer Moonshot.1

“Just like the original moonshot, the Cancer Moonshot is about using technology and the resulting information,” according to Simon. A cancer survivor himself, Simon alluded to how the removal of data silos and providing access to information had influenced his own treatment. “My leukemia treatment was at MSKCC [Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center], and subsequent care was at George Washington University,” he said. Data was shared seamlessly between providers at the 2 institutions, without any restrictions, he added. “We need to know how to get to our data, who can get to it, how they use it, and how they share it,” Simon explained. “Information that I publish should be available instantly—especially if it is government-sponsored—not 2 years later when it might be too late.”

Simon believes that both raw and published form of government-sponsored data should be readily accessible to whoever seeks it. “How can a physician find out more about a patient’s disease? How can the doctor get his hands on this information so he can treat his patient better?” he asked. “We need a blending of disciplines,” he said. That’s how ideas will evolve—ideas that tell us that it might be sufficient to contain cancer, rather than curing it. Such ideas need cross-disciplinary collaborations to blossom. Simon also emphasized the importance of patient engagement.

“Researchers who do not gain input from patients will stand to lose,” he said. “We need to include patient-reported outcomes, unexpected beneficial events, [adverse events] with researchers,” he said, adding, “So, there is nothing but a role for [health IT] in cancer care.” EBO
REFERENCE
1. Cancer Moonshot. The White House website. https://www.whitehouse.gov/CancerMoonshot. Accessed July 25, 2016.
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