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Biden’s Cancer Moonshot May Have Biobanks in its Stars

January 26, 2016

Network of Orbs

There has been a flurry of media around Vice President Joe Biden’s cancer moonshot plan since President Obama endorsed it in his final State of the Union address on January 12. The initiative aims to not only increase funding for cancer research, but also to encourage data sharing and hopefully double the pace of progress in finding a cure.

While the details of the plan have yet to be worked out, there is a clear focus on cross-collaboration. There is not a lot of detail about patient or specimen resources at this time, except for a motion to try to enroll more cancer patients in clinical trials, but nonetheless we believe cancer patient biospecimens will become even more critically in demand.

Especially with today’s focus on personalized medicine, not only will it be critical to study patients and how they react to treatment over time, but also how or why certain patients have reacted a certain way to different treatments – why do some therapies work for some individuals, and not for others? How can we target therapies based on a person’s individual makeup? This is the embodiment of targeted, precision medicine. With this type of research, it’s not just human clinical trials that need to be accomplished; it is also biospecimen-based research. Identifying biomarkers that play a role in why different people react differently will largely be accomplished through examining tissue samples or blood specimens of cancer patients.

When the National Cancer Institute announced it would create a Cancer Genome Atlas in 2005, the biobanking wave that swept the country didn’t fully take off in terms of getting specimens into the hands of researchers. Time and money were hugely invested, and some state-of-the-art facilities were created, but many remained underutilized, lacking the distribution reach to get samples into science.

Perhaps with Biden’s new moonshot we will see a renewed focus on mobilizing the assets of biobanks, including their biospecimens and wealth of data. Of course, if this occurs, we believe technology will be instrumental to aggregating and searching existing inventories to identify the right specimens for the right researchers at the right time.

To learn more about the cancer moonshot, please visit the following links:

Vice President launches initiative to cure cancer at Penn
A Cancer ‘Moonshot’ Needs Big Data