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Health & Medicine

Syracuse Cancer Expert Says Moonshot Cancer Initiative Will Bring Huge Improvement to Fight Disease


Upstate Medical University Cancer Center researchers are optimistic that the recent “Cancer Moonshot” initiative by the White House will bring positive advancements towards treating the disease. Professor Leszek Kotula says this new push will help expand research efforts.

“It actually brought a huge excitement about cancer research. Now, it is known that cancer is a very complex disease and it requires a huge amount of funding. What happened was (that) we all knew about struggles of Vice President’s son with glioblastoma. He lost the battle. We really understood that cancer can touch everyone.”

The initiative, announced at President Obama’s last State of the Union address, aims to double cancer advancements over the next decade with better funding. Professor Kotula himself is looking at a gene linked to prostate cancer.

WAER's Christian Unkenholz talked to Professor Leszek Kotula about the Cancer Moonshot initiative.

“We found that gene may play at all in very bad type of prostate cancer. These patients we think should have surgery earlier rather than later because they may get this bad cancer later on. And from that knowledge, we are starting what are the potential drug targets that we could cure people who have this change.”

Kotula says in the past, great ideas for research didn’t receive grants because there simply wasn’t enough funding. But by increasing investment by over one billion dollars he says we will see faster advancements.

“This increase of funding will help this worthwhile grant to be funded. So this immediately increases the chances of finding something new and never towards cancer treatments. This actually immediately will help progress.”

Kotula says the increased funds will decrease competition between scientists and go a long way towards fostering better collaboration.

The goals of the initiative are:

  • accelerate our understanding of cancer, and its prevention, early detection, treatment, and cure;
  • improve patient access and care;
  • support greater access to new research, data, and computational capabilities;
  • encourage development of cancer treatments;
  • identify and address any unnecessary regulatory barriers and consider ways to expedite administrative reforms;
  • ensure optimal investment of Federal resources; and
  • identify opportunities to develop public-private partnerships and increase coordination of the Federal Government's efforts with the private sector, as appropriate.


Vice President Biden also hopes to strengthen links between patients and research efforts. Kotula says the “Moonshot” emphasizes clinical trials for new treatments.

Dr. Kotula believes the initiative will boost patient participation in clinical trials and the collaboration between cancer research experts

“We can only progress the new medicine cancer through clinical trials. Because during the clinical trials, we establish the frequency of trials. So this is a critical time that patient participation is important.”

While patients may feel uneasy about clinical trials, Kotula says there are many safeguards in place ensuring safety. He is optimistic about the future of cancer research and believes the next decade will see significant strides in the fight against the disease.