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DOD Cancer Research Program Aims to 'End Cancer as We Know It Today'

Image of Dr. Craig Shriver is leading a renewed DOD/DHA effort to significantly expand cancer research and save lives through personalized medical treatments using proteogenomics. Shriver is director of the John P. Murtha Cancer Center at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and professor of surgery at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences. (Photo: Bernard Little, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center). Dr. Craig Shriver is leading a renewed DOD/DHA effort to significantly expand cancer research and save lives through personalized medical treatments using proteogenomics. Shriver is director of the John P. Murtha Cancer Center at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and professor of surgery at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences. (Photo: Bernard Little, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center)

Defense Department health officials will discuss cancer research efforts with the aim to reduce cancer and cancer-related deaths across the Military Health System.

Part of a government-wide White House initiative called Cancer Moonshot, the DOD component will be rolled out May 4 at an event sponsored by the DOD's Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland.

The effort marks a significant expansion of a program that began in 2016, when the DOD, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the National Cancer Institute created the Applied Proteogenomics Organizational Learning and Outcomes (APOLLO) Network.

The initial effort in 2016 was also part of a government-wide effort that created a network of 13 DOD and VA hospitals that launched eight cancer-specific programs, including studies in lung, breast, prostate, ovarian, pancreatic, testicular, and brain cancers.

Over time, the Cancer Moonshot program will expand the APOLLO Network to all DHA hospitals and extend its research efforts to include all cancer types. The new APOLLO trial network is part of a recent White House "reignition" of the Cancer Moonshot.

"We developed two robust and ongoing programs during the original Cancer Moonshot and will leverage those lessons learned as well as new opportunities to support the nation's warfighters and veterans through our new DOD initiatives," said Dr. Craig Shriver, Professor of Surgery at USU. He is director of USU's Murtha Cancer Research Program and the John P. Murtha Cancer Center at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. The other program is the DOD Framingham, which uses the DOD Serum Repository to study cancer biomarkers in active duty service members.

What is Proteogenomics?

The emerging field of proteogenomics aims to better predict how individual patients will respond to cancer therapy by screening their tumors for both genetic abnormalities and protein information.

Specifically, it involves combining protein analysis and gene analysis of specimens taken from patients.

Most cancer drugs target proteins, so researchers hope that combining protein analysis and gene analysis will improve doctors' ability to predict tumor response to treatment and, eventually, to match a specific individual's tumor with the right drug, DOD said.

Goals from the White House

As Vice President, Joe Biden was charged with establishing the Cancer Moonshot to reduce cancers significantly through an accelerated research program. During his presidential campaign and first State of the Union address as president in 2021, he has continued to champion this initiative.

The reignition of the initiative contains "new ambitious goals: to reduce the death rate from cancer by at least 50% over the next 25 years and improve the experience of people and their families living with and surviving cancer — and, by doing this and more, end cancer as we know it today," the White House said.

May 4 Roundtable

The Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences will host the DOD's Cancer Moonshot virtual roundtable on May 4 from 1-2 p.m. Eastern Time. Shriver will moderate the roundtable, "A Conversation on Cancer Health Equity and Military-relevant Environmental Exposure."

It's part of a day-long series of federal agency events sponsored by the White House initiative.

The DOD roundtable will be streamed live from USU on May 4. Participants will include:

  • Jerry Lee, chief science and innovation officer, Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine
  • Jie Lin, Murtha senior epidemiologist
  • Patricia Hastings, VA chief consultant, Health Outcomes Military Exposures
  • Warren Casey, acting chief, Predictive Toxicology Branch, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health

Military cancer survivors and partners of survivors also will participate in the discussion. They include:

  • Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Charles Felder
  • U.S. Public Health Service Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Jabara
  • Coast Guard partner Melinda DeLoatch-Speight
  • Marine Corps partner Homa Shafii-Schweers
  • Marine Corps Sgt. Michael Christian

Hosting the roundtable will be:

  • Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Seileen Mullen
  • Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. David Smith

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Last Updated: September 12, 2023
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