MD Anderson Cancer Center Plans ‘Moon Shot’ for Cures

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston announced Friday it's mounting a bold "moon shot" to dramatically reduce deaths from eight types of cancer within the next decade.

The new effort was likened to the space program of the 1960s, inspired by John F. Kennedy's famous speech, 50 years ago this month at Rice University in Houston, in which he said America should go to the moon and do other things, "not because they are easy but because they are hard."

"When Kennedy stood up there on September 1962, he didn't say that we're going to study how to get to the moon," said Dr. Ronald DePinho, president of MD Anderson. "He said we are going to the moon. Then the nation rallied to make sure we went to the moon."

The program, set to launch February 2013, will aim to accelerate the time cancer prevention and treatment efforts proven by research are used clinically. It is considered by the hospital as its largest initiative to eliminate some forms of cancer.

"They're bringing the lab to the clinic," said Dr. Roy Herbst, director of the thoracic oncology research program at the Yale Comprehensive Cancer Center. "You would say that they're doing this anyhow, but they're refocusing."

Herbst was a former faculty member at MD Anderson, but is not affiliated with its moon shot program.

The program comes after a year-long review process by a panel of medical experts from across the nation. They argued that as a result of work done over the last decade, researchers are close to finding cures for some types of cancer.

"In this moon shot effort, we're fashioning our programs in a way that enables us to ensure these discoveries make an impact," said DePinho.

The cancers that the program intends to target include acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome, a disease that has made headlines after it was diagnosed in Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts.

Other cancers in the program include chronic lymphocytic leukemia, melanoma, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and triple-negative breast and ovarian cancers.

The $3 billion program will fund six research teams whose main goal is to expeditiously translate research to successful clinical interventions. The money is expected to come from hospital earnings, research grants and philanthropic donors.

Long-term cancer survival rates have risen dramatically over the last decade. By the end of 2012, 11.3 million Americans are expected to be identified as cancer survivors, according to the American Cancer Society.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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