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January 29, 2016

Plain Dealer Opinion Piece: Cleveland's Place in the Cancer Moonshot

I recently wrote an opinion piece on "Cleveland's Place in the Cancer Moonshot" that was published in the Plain Dealer/Cleveland.com.

While I hope you will read the piece in its entirety, I want to call your attention to one particular section:

"The moonshot can also help us in the cancer community do a better job of communicating with one another and sharing information. News reports indicate that after a recent meeting with almost 200 oncologists and cancer scientists, Biden's staff was dismayed by what it saw as turf wars and lack of cooperation. Claiming the bully pulpit, the vice president wrote on Twitter that when it comes to cancer, the American people should "[d]emand collaboration from the scientific community." More of this type of advocacy is needed, including tying increased funding to increased collaboration.

Here is where Cleveland can serve as a national example. As director of the National Cancer Institute-designated Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, I lead a group of 365 experts who span 32 departments of the schools of Medicine, Nursing, Dentistry, Engineering, Applied Social Sciences, and the College of Arts and Sciences at Case Western Reserve University, University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center, Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute, and MetroHealth Medical Center. We regularly prove that institutional affiliation and disciplinary specialization need not represent barriers to progress, but rather can be sources of illumination that produce good results. We know our cancer center is at the top of the pack - the National Cancer Institute has told us so."

What makes our Center so unique is that we DO work together, and we DO try to remove barriers to cures. It is not always easy to do, but I believe everyone at our Center works hard every day to collaborate for the common good.

I hope you will read the piece, share it, and discuss it with your friends and colleagues. I'd appreciate feedback and comments, not only on this much talked about idea of a "cancer moonshot," but also on how we can build upon our existing collaborative efforts.  

Read Cleveland's Place in Cancer Moonshot

Breast Cancer Research Group

Bill Schiemann, Ruth Keri and I have conferred on the best next steps for the breast cancer research group and the broad effort in breast cancer and clinical investigation across the institutions within the Cancer Center. We are reflecting on the advice of our recent EAB meeting, whose members noted "the core of exceptional investigators who have the potential to lead the program to national prominence." Moreover, our advisors strongly recommended that we continue to maintain the group and support the focused research in breast cancer prevention, etiology, evolution and metastasis, treatment and interruption of recurrence.

Despite their enthusiasm for the breast cancer program, our advisors noted several weaknesses that require the program to remain in the developmental phase as we enter the P30 renewal season. For this reason, we will continue to have the BREast Cancer Working group as the BREW group.  Bill will continue to lead this group and we will add a clinical leader over the next few months. Bill has worked hard to synthesize the various capabilities of the group and will continue to bring the group together and to build strong collaborations across areas of basic and clinical research interest.

Importantly, the Cancer Center will continue to strongly encourage and support collaborative breast cancer research, such as the development and use of a breast biorepository, the expansion of the clinical trials portfolio, and the growth of breast cancer genomics initiatives, including the ongoing high-risk breast cancer genomics at both hospitals.

In the meantime and solely for the purposes of the P30 renewal application, BREW members will be redeployed and divvied up into other Case CCC programs, particularly Molecular Oncology, Cancer Imaging, Developmental Therapeutics, Hematopoietic Neoplasia, and Prevention. Bill, Ruth, and I have made initial program reassignments with the understanding that inappropriate assignments will be amended as you bring them to our attention. But our intention is for the programs to note your involvement in BREW and to comment on the impact this is having on the program as a whole. There is no need to "hide" breast cancer research.

In an effort to help facilitate this transition and to discuss the vision moving forward, Bill, Ruth, and I have scheduled a working group meeting to discuss the EAB review and what these changes mean to BREW members over the course of the upcoming P30 renewal efforts. Feel free to call visit or email if you have a topic to discuss now!

Finally, it is important to stress that we are extremely optimistic that the BREW will ferment into a formal program in due course, and plan to fully support that process. We also thank you for your prior and continued involvement and commitment to the program, the research it engenders, and its goal of impacting patient care.

Stan Gerson, MD
Ruth Keri, PhD
William Schiemann, PhD