President Obama, during his final State of the Union address on January 12, 2016, said, “Let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.”

From that challenge, the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative was born with Vice President Joe Biden appointed to the helm. A new national endeavor to develop massive strides in cancer research and treatment would take the brightest minds and most dedicated workers in oncology and throughout the country.

Oncology nurses have an enormous role in the Cancer Moonshot. As part of ONS’s larger advocacy commitment to oncology nurses, it issued a statement urging Vice President Biden to include oncology nurses in the Cancer Moonshot discussion. The vice president heard the call: as the White House planned roundtable discussions at leading cancer institutes across the United States, ONS members were invited to participate in those conversations with Vice President Biden. 

ONS’s Seat at the Table 

On February 10, 2016, the first Cancer Moonshot roundtable was held at Duke University, where ONS Chief Executive Officer Brenda Nevidjon, RN, MSN, FAAN, and then ONS President-Elect Susan Schneider, PhD, RN, AOCN®, FAAN, met with the vice president. Nevidjon, as part of the panel for the roundtable discussion, addressed the need for standardized nomenclature in health care and emphasized the importance of oncology nurses to patients with cancer. “The patients are part of the decision-making process; it’s important that they’re not absent from that conversation,” Nevidjon said. “Nursing very much facilitates that.”

Schneider spoke with the vice president prior to the panel discussion, focusing on the crucial role oncology nurses play in clinical trial education, recruitment, and data integrity, along with their commitment to symptom management and patient-centered care. 

From Duke, the Moonshot roundtable visited Huntsman Cancer Center in Salt Lake City, UT, on February 26, 2016. ONS member Kathleen Mooney, PhD, RN, FAAN, attended as a panel member and spoke to the importance of nurse research and symptom management as the Moonshot progresses. Mooney also spoke about healthcare disparities facing rural and frontier areas. 

The vice president then traveled to the University of California, San Francisco, on February 27, 2016, to speak about the role of big data and ways the cancer community can collaborate and share new findings. ONS member Christine Miaskowski, RN, PhD, FAAN, highlighted the importance of nurse researchers as part of the Moonshot’s push for breaking down silos in cancer research. Nurses play an integral role when reporting patient outcomes and symptom management, along with contributing vital data on patient experiences. 

The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center was the final stop on the vice president’s Moonshot roundtable tour on March 21, 2016. ONS member Angelique Richards, PhD, RN, spoke as one of the roundtable’s panel members. Richards addressed the need to improve patient access: “Many patients struggle because of geographic or economic reasons. Developing great treatment options is no help to a patient who can’t access the care.”

Blue Ribbon Panel

To help inform the scientific direction of the Cancer Moonshot, the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI’s) National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB) developed the Blue Ribbon Panel. ONS member and past president, Deborah K. Mayer, PhD, RN, AOCN®, FAAN, was the only nurse selected for inclusion in the panel. Her work in nurse research, oncology nurse advocacy, and clinical practice made her the perfect candidate. 

“This is a wonderful recognition and opportunity to bring nursing and patient perspectives to this prestigious panel,” Mayer said. “Our work will be significant in identifying opportunities to reduce the burden of cancer.”

By August 2016, the Blue Ribbon Panel will submit a report to the NCAB for considered recommendations, which will be reviewed by the NCAB and NCI director before being released to the public. 

Working Groups

To assist in developing the Blue Ribbon Panel’s recommendations, seven working groups have been developed. These working groups include a number of leading cancer experts and healthcare professionals, including ONS members Mayer and Mooney, along with member Jeannine Brant, PhD, APRN, AOCN®. They will work to develop two to three major opportunities per group that could lead to significant scientific breakthroughs for the Cancer Moonshot. 

The working groups will focus on expanding clinical trials, enhanced data sharing, cancer immunology and prevention, implementation sciences, pediatric cancer, precision prevention and early detection, along with tumor evolution and progression. Mayer and Mooney will be working with the implementation sciences group, while Brant will be assisting with expanding clinical trials. 

The Future of Cancer Care

It’s an exciting time for oncology, as new funding and national attention to cancer research and care will lead to big changes in the future. ONS will continue to advocate for the inclusion of oncology nurses in the Cancer Moonshot Initiative. As the first line of care, oncology nurses will be integral in changing the face of cancer in the months and years to come.