On Tuesday, May 31, 2016, Senator Chris Murphy, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, and Yale School of Nursing (YSN) Dean Ann Kurth hosted a cancer moonshot roundtable at the school to discuss support for cancer research and treatments in Connecticut. Attendees included YSN faculty, Yale researchers and clinicians, providers, large and small companies, and faculty from other Connecticut institutions.
Announced in January 2016, the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative aims to accelerate cancer research by increasing access to cancer therapies to more patients, and improving early detection and prevention. An additional goal of the initiative is to consolidate 10 years of cancer research into five years, but Senator Murphy explained that more funding is required to achieve this objective.
The roundtable featured a welcome from Dean Kurth, who acknowledged the importance of this and future discussions. “This session allowed us to focus on nursing science contribution to oncology including prevention, precision health treatment, symptom management, and survivorship issues,” explained Dean Kurth.
Senator Murphy launched the discussion with two primary topics: new research and clinical trials currently taking place at Connecticut’s universities and bioscience companies that the initiative can support; and how both the state and federal government can best help these institutions collaborate to create jobs and transform cutting-edge research into new treatments.
Congresswoman DeLauro discussed the current relationship between researchers and drug companies, explaining that the entities are too isolated from one another to achieve the initiative’s goals. “We need your voices,” she said. “Give us the ammunition we need to drive the funding numbers up.”
Among its overall goals, the initiative seeks to invest in and expand specific research areas, including immunotherapy. YSN Assistant Professor Marianne Davies, whose research focuses on immunotherapy for lung cancer patients, was invited to provide her thoughts on the topic. In her remarks, Dr. Davies presented nursing research as the foundation for developing personalized approaches to patient assessment and symptom management, and as providing an opportunity to assess patients at risk for the development of side effects.
“Dr. Davies did a superb job of discussing these issues in the context of patient care,” said Dean Kurth. “We also highlighted the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) focus in this area, as part of acknowledging Senator Murphy’s and Congresswoman DeLauro’s greatly appreciated support for NIH funding.”
In addition to Davies, several other attendees, including YSN’s Beatrice Renfield Term Professor of Nursing Nancy Redeker and YSN Postdoctoral Fellow Fay Wright, shared their thoughts about the current state of cancer research, clinical trials, and treatments. Topics brought up included the NIH process for selecting and approving grants, the loss of promising junior faculty members due to inability to obtain top tier grants like those from the NIH, promoting the transition of innovative technologies to the wider clinical community, and drug shortages.
“Senator Murphy and Congresswoman DeLauro fully recognize the need for increased funding,” said Davies. “This meeting provided the details they need to move the initiative forward. It was the first step in breaking down the silos of cancer research internally at Yale and externally in Connecticut and nationally.”
Joining Davies in providing opening remarks were Dr. Roy Herbst, Yale School of Medicine (YSM) Ensign Professor of Medicine and Professor of Pharmacology; Dr. Patricia LoRusso, YSM Professor of Medicine; and Dr. Craig Crews, the Lewis B. Cullman Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Development Biology, member of the faculty advisory committee for the Yale West Campus Chemical Biology Institute, and Professor of Chemistry.
Read additional stories about the Moonshot Initiative roundtable:
Photo by Mike Marsland.