U.S. Cancer Moonshot Needs Stronger Int’l Effort To Make Substantial Progress – Kevin Rudd

Kevin Rudd, president of the Asia Society, introduces Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State, at … [+] George Washington University in Washington, D.C. on May 26, 2022. Photographer: Eric Lee/Bloomberg

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The Biden administration’s “Cancer Moonshot” launched in February is a laudable move to defeat one of the world’s worst scourges, yet more international collaboration is needed to make substantial progress, Asia Society Global President and CEO Kevin Rudd told the Forbes China Healthcare Summit on Saturday.

“Much of the Cancer Moonshot efforts have largely focused on domestic efforts and coordination between institutions, agencies, and public-private partnerships,” Rudd noted. “More international cooperation, especially between the U.S. and China, is critical to move the Moonshot to the next level to benefit the whole of humanity, Rudd said.

“There are relatively few international efforts, especially on clinical cancer trials, which will be the decisive step between scientific discovery and saving lives that we now need,” Rudd said.

Mandarin-speaking Rudd, formerly Australia’s prime minister, is a prominent go-between China and other nations, including the United States. This year, he published “The Avoidable War: The Dangers of a Catastrophic Conflict between the U.S. and Xi Jinping’s China.” The Asia Society, led by Rudd, hosted a high-profile China policy speech by U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken on May 26.

Then Vice President Biden first led the Cancer Moonshot in 2016 during the Obama administration with the mission to accelerate the rate of progress against cancer. It was “reignited” this year with the goal of reducing the cancer death rate by 50% over the next 25 years. The theme of the Forbes China Healthcare Summit this year was “New International Directions For A Reignited Moonshot.”

One of the world’s worst diseases, cancer in its various forms kills 10 million people globally every year; more than 3.6 million of those are from China and the United States. Collaboration has helped fight back, Rudd noted.

“International trials have been key to accelerating the breakthroughs that we’ve seen so far and for the future,” he said. “During the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw the FDA approval of Lumakras, the first targeted drug against KRAS, the most common cancer driver gene that was deemed undruggable by scientists for 40 years. This approval affects up to 13% of patients with non-small cell lung cancers.

“For a sense of scale,” Rudd noted, “in the United States, lung cancer takes 150,000 lives per year. This approval could save over 16,000 lives in the U.S. per year. If we look at global lung cancer deaths which currently costs us two million lives every year, this is a new breakthrough and could save us some 200,000 lives annually.”

In 2019, the Oncology Center of Excellence at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration launched Project Orbis, which has played an instrumental role forging global collaboration among regulators of cancer treatments. Under Project Orbis, Lumakras was approved at an accelerated pace in over 40 countries, “thus significantly expanding the number of lives saved worldwide,” Rudd said.

“To put that in context, it’s worth noting that new cancer drug development and clinical trials typically takes 10 to 15 years. Lumakras approval was achieved in less than three years during the pandemic thanks to innovative international trials co-lead by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s Dr. Bob Li in collaboration with Amgen and cancer hospitals in eight countries across North America, Asia and Europe,” Rudd said.

U.S. President Joe Biden, left, speaks during an event on ending cancer with Second Gentleman Doug … [+] Emhoff, from right, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, Edjah Nduom, associate professor at Emory University School of Medicine, and First Lady Jill Biden in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022. Photographer: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg

© 2022 Bloomberg Finance LP

Li also led another international trial with AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo’s Enhertu (trastuzumab deruxtecan), which has received FDA approval in August 2022. The HER2 mutation covered by Enhertu account for 2-3% of lung cancers, and the approval could potentially save 3,000 American lives a year, and up to 60,000 lives a year worldwide, Rudd estimated.

“These kinds of breakthroughs show the clear benefits of international clinical trials and larger data sets that they offer, helping researchers find better cures and to find them faster,” Rudd said.

“Despite these laudable achievements, much more needs to be done,” he continued. “We need to mitigate policy barriers that are currently delaying precision diagnostics, data sharing, and clinical trial, regulatory oversight,” Rudd noted.

“Ongoing dialogues among experts around the world are essential in order to determine and maintain such regulations and treatment standards. But the current degree of cooperation is insufficient to meet the severe and global risks posed by cancers,” he said.

The Asia Society and MSK, collaborating with the FDA and industry leaders, recently published a white paper to promote international regulatory coordination, including encouraging the China NMPA (National Medical Products Administration) and other international regulators to join Project Orbis; the authors noted that Covid-19 introduced a degree of openness and collaboration enabled by the emergency of the pandemic that can and now should be replicated in other areas of public health, Rudd said.

With the launch of the first Moonshot in 2016, “We envisioned a global movement of science, medicine, and humanitarianism in which all of us can play a role in combating cancer,” Rudd said. “This kind of global coordination has demonstrable public health benefits, but it could also represent geopolitical progress as it could serve as a testament to the willingness of all nations to work together to address humanities, shared public health challenges, many of which are now solvable with modern medicine.”

Hence, Rudd said, “At this point, it’s fair to say the lack of regulatory coordination is one of the biggest barriers to prolonging the lives of cancer patients.”

And yet, “We cannot allow geopolitical and bilateral tensions to prevent us from making progress in this most critical of areas,” he said.

See related posts:

From Patient To Policy Insider: Greg Simon’s Cancer Rx Includes A Better White House Rallying Call

Meet The Scientist Leading Coordinating President Biden’s New Cancer Moonshot

“Why Is Cancer Less Important To Cure Faster Than Covid?”: Cancer Moonshot Pathways

Social Justice, Outreach, Global Collaboration: Cancer Moonshot Pathways

Break Through Barriers To Drive Progress: Cancer Moonshot Pathways

Biden Deserves Credit For Taking On Cancer: Cancer Moonshot Pathways

Accelerate Cures Through International Collaboration In Clinical Trials: Cancer Moonshot Pathways

U.S. Research Grants Should Require Data Sharing: Cancer Moonshot Pathways

Incentivize The Fight Against Cancer That Affects Kids: Cancer Moonshot Pathways

Innovative Solutions To Cancer Require Innovative Finance: Cancer Moonshot Pathways

Close The Gap Between Discovery Research And Patient Care: Cancer Moonshot Pathways

@rflannerychina

Life Sciences, Forbes – Healthcare

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