HOUSTON - It's a pledge to boldly go where no man has ever gone before. But this time, we're not talking about space exploration.
In a bold announcement inspired by President John F. Kennedy's famous speech 50 years ago, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center declared that the next great mission for mankind is curing cancer.
"Humanity is counting on us to act," said Dr. Ronald DePinho, president of the center.
DePinho said that the center's unprecedented "Moon Shots Program" will dramatically improve the survival rate over the next decade.
"This program is about comprehensiveness, spanning prevention, early detection, prognostication, treatment, survivorship," said DePinho.
According to the center, six teams will focus on eight different types of cancer:
- acute myeloid leukemia/myelodysplastic syndrome
- chronic lymphocytic leukemia (blood cancers)
- lung cancer
- prostate cancer
- triple negative breast & ovarian cancer
Wife and mother Elizabeth Stegall is an ovarian cancer survivor who sees promise in MD Anderson's new program.
"I'm happy to say that I've been told I'm cancer-free," Stegall said.
Ironically, she was diagnosed after enrolling as a low-risk participant in a clinical trial as a way to honor a college friend who died from the disease.
"I agreed to do it in my friend's name and thought this is something I can do to donate my time and never thought that six years into a 10 year study that I too would be diagnosed with ovarian cancer," she said.
Fortunately, the cancer was in stage one. After six rounds of chemotherapy, the cancer is gone and Stegall is excited about the possibility of a cancer-free future for millions more.
"MD Anderson is always a leader in getting this information out and I'm just thrilled and I really think this is going to be the answer," she said.
The center said it plans to spend as much as $3 billion on the project over the next 10 years.
For more information about "Moon Shots," visit the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center web site for the program.
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