As the Cancer Moonshot 2020 initiative enters into its final year, many in oncology are examining its successes and shortcomings to better understand how to approach cancer treatments in the new decade. Cancer Moonshot 2020, a program that was announced by Congress in January 2016, was designed to accelerate cancer research, encourage greater collaboration between oncology professionals, and improve the sharing of data between researchers, while simultaneously improving our ability to prevent cancer and detect it at an early stage.

Cannabinoids and cannabis-based treatments have shown success in treating cancer-related symptoms. While more research is needed, there has also been some promising data showing their potential in treating cancer itself as well. Although we have witnessed strides in cancer therapy over the past 25 years, the industry at large needs to properly vet all potential treatments, including cannabinoids, in order to spark a downward trend in cancer prevalence.

While Cancer Moonshot has helped to drive down cancer rates, we cannot stop until the number hits zero. As the program enters into its fourth year, the Cancer Moonshot initiative is moving from the planning phase into the research segment. Prior to this final stage, a critical component to achieve Cancer Moonshot was the founding of The Blue Ribbon Panel, which released comprehensive guidelines to meet the goals of the initiative by the year 2020. After the panel’s release, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) moved to quickly implement changes within the cancer industry to adhere to recommendations in the Blue Ribbon Panel report. This has led to the launch of new scientific programs and more than $600 million awarded to researchers nationwide to continue to pursue new cancer therapies. Patients can take solace in knowing that the majority of the funds made available in 2017 and 2018 through Cancer Moonshot have already been granted, and the research is underway.

The findings of the Blue Ribbon Panel are extensive in scope and provide recommended focus areas for cancer researchers, but cannabinoid-based treatments and their potential for treating both the symptoms of cancer and cancer itself are still missing from the conversation, largely in part due to current laws in place that dictate the use of cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug. This ultimately has led to a gap in reliable research for oncologists to draw from to make informed decisions for patients. Initiatives like Cancer Moonshot present an opportunity to change laws governing research to be fully inclusive when considering all cancer therapies.

Many companies have already began critical research around cannabinoids and cannabis to provide alternative treatments. In past years, chemotherapy has taken centerstage to treat patients living with cancer. However, chemotherapy brings its own shortcomings, and so, there has been a significant movement to explore other options, for example, immunotherapy. Cannabinoid-based treatments can also offer a solution, filling in many of the gaps we have in cancer therapy today.

With the advancements of the 21st century, artificial intelligence (AI) can play a major role in developing cancer treatments. At Cannabics Pharmaceuticals, we are creating a platform that leverages novel drug-screening tools and AI to create cannabinoid-based therapies for cancer that are more precise to a patient’s profile. While studies like ours are vital, the needle cannot be moved by one company alone. The approach must be embraced on a larger scale and applied across multiple disease areas in order to develop an exhaustive list of treatment courses for consideration.

Overall, advancements made in cancer therapy have begun to accelerate rapidly, with a great deal of credit given to the programs and funding provided by Cancer Moonshot. The initiative has shown success in expanding areas of focus and research around the traditional approaches to cancer treatment. However, cannabis has presented itself as a viable alternative to many of these traditional methods, such as chemotherapy, and should be included in the next wave of funding. In order to find new avenues for combating this life-threatening disease, we need to think outside of the box and examine every possible option. Doing so will improve patient outcomes and empower them to have a greater say in their treatment regimen, which is currently limited.

Cancer Moonshot continues to offer hope and evokes positivity in the fight against cancer. Considering cannabinoids as part of the solution can widen the scope of research and benefit those living with cancer, as well as the clinicians who treat them. To truly achieve the goal of Cancer Moonshot 2020, we need to change what a cancer diagnosis means, and through continued studies in the cannabinoid space, we have a chance to give this reality new meaning in the new decade.