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Break Through Barriers To Drive Progress: Cancer Moonshot Pathways


Forbes August 8, 2022

Russell Flannery


Break Through Barriers To Drive Progress: Cancer Moonshot Pathways

MIT Professor Tyler Jacks has made a mark in cancer work not only by his research but his ability to bring different organizations together.


Through his leadership, Break Through Cancer has spurred a first-of-its-kind collaboration of five of the top cancer research centers in the world: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.


The effort, funded with $250 million of help from the family of Richmond, VA businessman William H. Goodwin, is committed to reducing the day-to-day barriers to cross-institutional collaboration such as contract negotiations, data sharing, intellectual property, and authorship policies.


President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot, requiring collaboration across the U.S. government agencies, is up against many of those same problems. I recently spoke to Jacks at his office in Cambridge, Massachusetts on how he sized up the effort. He knows well about then Vice President Biden’s 2016 Moonshot efforts, having been a co-chair of a Blue-Ribbon Panel to advise on the effort.


First, he said, is the importance of quantifying the battle. “Having specific goals and an action plan for cancer is important. Having a strategy about how to approach the cancer problem is equally important. The fact is that the White House was motivated to do that in the setting of Cancer Moonshot 1.0 and re-initiate the effort in 2.0 lends ready comparisons to our efforts in Break Through Cancer,” Jacks said.


“I like the fact that they have included in 2.0 a goal of reducing cancer mortality in 25 years by 50%. Putting a stake in the ground and measuring success against it is sensible,” he said. “I also strongly support several of the specific areas that have been identified in 2.0, including earlier detection. We know that cancer is a particularly