A Baylor College of Medicine pediatric oncologist will be part of the efforts to accelerate cancer research through the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative. Dr. Will Parsons, associate professor of pediatrics at Baylor and Texas Children’s Cancer Center, will join the National Cancer Institute’s Blue Ribbon Panel Working Group on Pediatric Cancer, which is providing insight and direction to the Moonshot initiative.
The Moonshot initiative was announced in January by President Barack Obama and is being led by Vice President Joe Biden. The initiative aims to accelerate current cancer research efforts and break down barriers to progress, making more therapies available to more patients, while also improving the ability to prevent cancer and detect it at an early stage.
The NCI, in consultation with the National Institutes of Health and the White House, assembled the Blue Ribbon Panel, a working group of the National Cancer Advisory Board, to provide expert advice on the vision, proposed scientific goals and implementation of the National Cancer Moonshot. The panel will consider how to best advance the themes proposed for the Moonshot, including an intensive examination of the opportunities and impediments in cancer research.
The Blue Ribbon Panel’s working groups, including the pediatric cancer group, will gather input from the cancer research community and industry across specific disciplines and sectors. The findings and recommendations of the panel and its working groups will be reported to the National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB) later this summer. The NCAB will use the panel’s findings to provide final recommendations to the NCI director, who will in turn deliver a report to the White House Moonshot Task Force and ultimately to the President.
“I’m excited about the potential of the Moonshot initiative to improve care for children with cancer through collaborative research,” Parsons said. “We look forward to contributing to these discussions based on our experience at Texas Children’s Cancer Center.”
In addition to coordinating the Working Groups, the Blue Ribbon Panel is accepting cancer research ideas to be considered under the Moonshot from the scientific community and general public. Individuals and groups are encouraged to submit their ideas through July 1 to CancerResearchIdeas.cancer.gov.
Parsons is director of the Pediatric Center for Precision Oncology at Texas Children’s Cancer Center, as well as the co-director of the Brain Tumor Program and the Cancer Genetics and Genomics Program. He specializes in the treatment of children with brain and spinal cord tumors, and his team’s research has been critical to the understanding of genes involved in pediatric solid tumors, leukemias, and histiocytic disorders.
In addition, Parsons’ research program focuses on the clinical application of genomic technologies in pediatric cancer care. He is the co-principal investigator with Dr. Sharon Plon, professor of pediatrics - oncology at Baylor, on the Baylor Advancing Sequencing in Childhood Cancer Care, or BASIC3, study, a National Human Genome Research Institute and National Cancer Institute-funded Clinical Sequencing Exploratory Research project to examine the usefulness of tumor and germline whole exome sequencing in children newly diagnosed with certain cancers. He also serves as the Children’s Oncology Group study chair for the NCI Pediatric MATCH study, a precision oncology clinical trial for children with relapsed and refractory cancers that is planned to open in late 2016.