Cancer Moonshot Summit comes to WNY with message for urgent change

Jun 29, 2016

Hundreds of Western New Yorkers, active in the fight against cancer, joined in a national movement to find a cure for the disease. Doctors, researchers, government officials, cancer survivors and patients took part in the regional Cancer Moonshot Summit hosted at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute on Wednesday morning.


Credit Avery Schneider / WBFO News

The event is part of a $1 billion program being sponsored by the White House and spearheaded by Vice President Joseph Biden.

Dr. Kara Kelly, head of RPCI’s pediatric oncology department, said the initiative offers a chance for cancer researchers in Buffalo to expand their work on a national level.

“We can take things that are developed here, bring them nationally, expand the impact. I think, also, by going to the meetings, interacting with other researchers and clinicians around the country, around the world, we can bring those ideas back. There is a lot of collaboration, but there needs to be even more of that. I think we’re going to see more breaking down of silos over the next couple of years,” said Kelly.

Vice President Biden gave a live-streamed address to the summit’s audience. It was broadcast to all of the 270 regional summits nationwide taking place simultaneously with a national summit in Washington, D.C.

According to Jackie Cornell-Bechelli, Regional Director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Biden touched on three key topics – the first being that government doesn’t have all the answers, but bringing people together who might have some of them is a start in the right direction.

Cornell-Bechelli said Biden also pushed the need for urgency in research and treatment.

“Timing matters, especially to those who are getting late-stage diagnoses,” said Cornell-Bechelli. “So how can we accelerate the clock, whether that’s in regulations, clinical trials, etcetera.”

Cornell-Bechelli said the third part of Biden’s message was how to provide hope to people, and she noted that some of it is being done using technologies like tele-health and data-sharing that weren’t available just a half a decade ago.

A panel discusses the current state of cancer research and treatment, and what can be done differently.
Credit Avery Schneider / WBFO News

Following Biden’s address, a panel discussion and question and answer session with audience members discussed the current approach to cancer and new ways to address it. Cornell-Bechelli said it’s necessary to change the behavior and culture that surrounds the disease.

“You need a lot of messengers beating the same message over and over and over again. I think that is part of what the moonshot is doing. It’s taking this desire for urgency, this desire to create hope for survivors and their families, for patients and their families, and it’s giving us one loud drum beat together,” said Cornell-Bechelli.

Cornell-Bechelli said part of the initiative is also focusing on making sure government agencies work smarter and harder. She said that’s being done by finding similarities and trends in cancer research and treatment.