The National Cancer Moonshot needs to target proteins that are driving cancer rather than focusing only on genomics, a new paper suggests. Focusing on genomics exclusively could ignore the important role of proteomics in the development of cancer.1

The National Cancer Moonshot, announced by President Barack Obama in his 2016 State of the Union Address, intends to achieve 10 years’ worth of research in 5 years by concentrating on immunotherapy, genomics, and combination therapies. Funding of approximately $1 billion is expected in 2017.

“After all, while the genome is the information archive, it is the proteins that actually do the work of the cell and represent the structural cellular machinery,” wrote the 2 authors, Emanuel Petricoin, co-director of the George Mason University Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine, Fairfax, Virginia, and Thomas P. Conrads, associate director of Scientific Technologies for the Inova Schar Cancer Institute and chief scientific officer of the Department of Defense Gynecologic Cancer Center of Excellence.

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“It is the proteins that comprise most of the biomarkers that are measured to detect cancers, constitute the antigens that drive immune response and inter- and intracellular communications, and it is the proteins that are the drug targets for nearly every targeted therapy that is being evaluated in cancer trials today.”

The authors praised the National Cancer Moonshot but encouraged its focus to also encompass proteomics.

“Establishment of the Inova-George Mason University Center for Clinical Proteomics affirms the strong commitment of these two prominent Northern Virginia institutions to the precision medicine renaissance and the recognition that major strides will only be possible through dedicated support for and inclusion of proteomics in this initiative,” Conrads said.

Researchers at George Mason University have used proteomics to discover personalized therapies for patients with metastatic breast cancer.

“The involvement of our existing clinical proteomics efforts in a variety of cutting-edge precision medicine trials today, and the results we are seeing firsthand by including proteomics in a ‘multi-omic’ engine for precision medicine, serve to validate our investment in the area as well as reaffirm the need to be a world leader in the arena,” Petricoin said.


1. Conrads TP, Petricoin EF. The Obama Administration’s Cancer Moonshot: a call for proteomics [published online May 19, 2016]. Clin Cancer Res. doi:10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-16-0688.