MRS Members Direct DoD Funding Toward Metastatic Cancer Research

Metastasis is the spread of cancer from the original or primary site in the body to a new site, and it is still the cause of 90% of all cancer-related deaths (American Cancer Society).

Last year, the United States Congress passed the 2016 Defense Appropriations Bill directed at the Department of Defense (DoD) with the goal of accelerating clinical and translational metastatic cancer research. The Metastatic Cancer Research Task Force chaired by Craig Shriver, MD was then established under the direction of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs).

Dr. Craig Shriver, MD (Image from the Task Force Meeting Program)

The goal of the Task Force is to provide Congress with a comprehensive plan that directs funding for research to projects that have the most promise for extending the lives of advanced/metastatic and recurrent cancer patients.

On December 12th and 13th of 2016, the Task Force ran an invite-only Metastatic Cancer Research Task Force Operational Meeting at the John P. Murtha Cancer Center of the Walter Reed Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.  A multidisciplinary group of 28 leading metastasis researchers and clinicians from academia, industry, and Government participated in the meeting to assist in preparing the plan for Congress.  The group also included epidemiologists and social scientists.

At least 7 of the 28 invited metastasis experts were members of the Metastasis Research Society.  They included current board member, Julio Aguirre-Ghiso, PhD, past board member, Klaus Pantel, MD, past-president, Danny Welch, PhD, and other members including Alana Welm, PhD, Joan Massague, PhD, Kent Hunter, PhD, and Cyrus Ghajar, PhD.

During the 2-day meeting, each attendee was asked to give a presentation that described the following:
- The status of metastatic research
- Gaps that exist in the research
- Barriers that inhibit the research
- Top 3 initiatives that need to occur in this field in order to accelerate clinical and translational research to extend the lives of advanced stage and recurrent patients with metastatic disease

Dr. Aguirre-Ghiso reported that a common initiative identified by the majority of presenters was identifying and controlling cancer dormancy as a means to limit therapy resistance and to both prevent and treat metastatic disease.

Another common initiative was the limited access to metastatic lesions and bone marrow aspirates from stage IV patients, which would allow researchers to better study the biology of metastatic lesions and disseminated disease in a clinically relevant manner.

An additional area of discussion was creating longer-term funding programs (beyond the 3-5 year common funding terms) to allow institutions to create multidisciplinary centers focused on the biology of stage IV cancer. These would include not only scientists in the biomedical sciences but also in engineering and other areas.

Now, the Task Force is summarizing the presentations and panel discussions that took place during the meeting in a comprehensive report that will be used to advise Congress on how to accelerate clinical and translational metastatic cancer research.


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