Collaboration is Key to Cancer Research


This letter originally appeared in the Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016 Columbus Dispatch

In President Obama’s final State of Union address (delivered Jan. 12, 2016), he announced a new national initiative, led by Vice President Biden, focused on making a deliberate and aggressive investment in eradicating cancer through research.

In doing this, the nation entered a second war to end cancer – the first was launched in 1971 by Richard Nixon.

The difference between now and then is that we are armed with a dramatically changed understanding that has shifted our thinking of cancer as a single disease­ — classified by anatomical location — to more than 200 subtypes of cancer, each driven by a complex mix of genomic factors unique to the individual affected. This has changed the way cancer research is conducted nationwide and resulted in the development of targeted treatments for diseases like chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a disease long thought of as incurable.

The “Moonshot to Cure Cancer” effort reinforces a message sent by the National Cancer Institute several years ago that collaborative science is the key to success. Breaking down silos, sharing information and working together towards a common goal is the only way we will defeat cancer. This requires collaborations between researchers, universities, federal and state government and the private sector.

This is why in 2014 Ohio State partnered with Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa, Florida, to launch the Oncology Research Information Exchange Network (ORIEN), a national network that has since grown to include 11 respected cancer centers who share the same protocol so that all biologic samples and associated genomic data donated for science enter the same biobank. This information creates an enormous data repository for conducting research that will lead to new prevention strategies and clinical treatment opportunities for patients. To date, more than 130,000 donated samples from cancer patients have been amassed.  

Our nation is at the precipice of making an enormous investment in cancer research. To succeed it will take bold ideas and the funding to pursue them. Success is most definitely within our reach – but it will require harnessing the collective energy of academia, industry, government and the community to achieve our shared goal: beating cancer.

We applaud President Obama and Vice President Biden for making a bold statement – and investment – to move us toward our goal of creating a cancer-free world.  

Michael Caligiuri, MD

Director, The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center
CEO, Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute