Health

The dean of the University of Louisville’s School of Public Health & Information Sciences is joining other university deans in urging the federal government to rethink its approach to fighting cancer.

The federal Cancer Moonshot Task Force was launched earlier this year with $1 billion to develop new ways to detect and treat cancer. But in a letter sent earlier this week to task force leader Vice President Joe Biden, U of L Dean Craig Blakely and 71 other deans said they were concerned the approach misses the mark.

“We urge you to pay careful attention to the balance between treatment and prevention-related investments,” the letter said.

Blakely said he supports the federal government investing in cancer research, but the initiative is missing a meaningful contribution to prevention.

“If you can make the population more healthy in general, they are less susceptible to cancer taking shape in their bodies,” he said.

Cancer Moonshot directs funding to research for prevention and cancer vaccine development; early cancer detection; cancer immunotherapy and combination therapy; genomic analysis of tumor and surrounding cells; enhanced data sharing; and pediatric cancer. The initiative will also develop a virtual Oncology Center of Excellence and create a new fund for cancer research.

Blakely said these are all worthwhile.

“Not at all arguing that we shouldn’t be making clinical treatment and trials research, simply making the case that it largely ignores the prevention side, which we believe stands to make a much bigger contribution to the end game plan of eliminating morbidity and mortality linked to cancer,” he said.

Blakley said investing in behavior is the best way to arrest the development of cancer. For example, he said it’s easier to convince people not to begin smoking than convincing them to stop once they’ve started.

“It’s an age-old argument that we invest 98 percent of our health related resources in sick interventions and we do very little in trying to keep people healthy,” he said.

Blakely said the deans expect to receive some sort of response to the letter from the White House.