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Vice President's Cancer Moonshot panel includes 2 experts from UNC

Deborah Mayer and Barbara Rimer have been appointed to the Cancer Moonshot 2020 panel, which was unveiled in President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address in January. The Moonshot initiative seeks to take major steps in improving cancer care and treatment by the start of the next decade.

“This Blue Ribbon Panel will ensure that as (the National Institutes of Health) allocates new resources through the Moonshot, decisions will be grounded in the best science,” Vice President Joe Biden said in an email from his press secretary, Meghan Dubyak.

“I look forward to working with this panel and many others involved with the Moonshot to make unprecedented improvements in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.”

The name “Cancer Moonshot” refers to President John F. Kennedy’s “Moonshot” speech, which committed America to getting a man on the moon. Now, instead of the moon, the end goal is to reduce the prevalence of cancer in the United States.

“It’s certainly an honor when the president of the United States picks you for a panel of this elite nature, and at the same time, it’s a huge responsibility,” said Chad Ellis, associate director of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“As our country’s population ages because of advances in cancer care, the topic of survivorship becomes even more important. We are fortunate to have two of the world’s premier experts on the subject right here in Chapel Hill.”

Mayer, a professor of adult and geriatric health at the UNC School of Nursing, was nominated for the panel by the Oncology Nursing Society. As a part of the panel, she and Rimer will address matters such as the development of cancer vaccines, approaches to early detection and advances in immunotherapy and combination therapies.

“I have 40 years of experience as an oncology nurse and researcher, and so I have a lot of different experiences and perspectives to bring,” Mayer said. “I’m also a cancer survivor, so I think I can also bring the voice of the patient and the perspective of one to the critical care issues.”

She said she would like the panel to look at funding opportunities for ways to improve cancer care that are not just about treatment, but about prevention and system management as well.

“We need to think about the whole continuum of cancer and about the people and their family members who have to deal with it,” Mayer said.

Rimer, the dean of the Gillings School of Global Public Health, is a prominent researcher in cancer prevention. She said in an email she will maintain her roles at UNC and continue conducting research while on the Cancer Moonshot panel.

“All research is collaboration. Cancer is not a single disease but in reality comprises a variety of diseases, each with its own challenges,” Rimer said. “Any effort that aims to tackle all of the disease states we define as ‘cancer’ will require a broad range of collaborations.”

Mayer said the fact that she and Rimer were both selected from UNC speaks to the reputation of the UNC Lineberger program and reflects the investment the University Cancer Research Fund has made to the University.

“Cancer is a disease that touches many people in so many ways, and to take care of either preventing it or treating it or managing it in whatever way, it takes a village,” Mayer said.

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