NCI National Cancer Plan Offers Ambitious, Comprehensive Path to Accelerate Progress Against the Disease

ASCO Programs Can Help Achieve Plans’ Goals
April 3, 2023

Today the National Cancer Institute (NCI) released an ambitious National Cancer Plan designed to accelerate scientific progress against the disease, maximize the potential of discovery and achieve the goal of the Cancer Moonshot initiative to “end cancer as we know it.”

The comprehensive plan details eight specific goals and sets forth strategies that rely on the resources of the federal government, academia, industry, and nonprofit organizations. The goals encompass the entire cancer continuum from cancer prevention and early detection through improved treatments, greater access to clinical trials, and better overall care delivery. The plan prioritizes eliminating health disparities as well as diversifying the cancer care workforce.

“This plan represents the exact kind of roadmap the nation needs. Decades of past federal research investment are already paying off with promising new methods of early detection and new treatments. But research alone won’t get us to our goals,” said American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) President Eric P. Winer, MD, FASCO. “We need a concerted and coordinated effort across the entire cancer community to make sure new discoveries and proven interventions reach our entire population of individuals with cancer and have a chance to benefit everyone.”

The National Cancer Plan emphasizes the need to understand the biology behind pre-cancerous cells to improve cancer prevention, calls for developing new screening tests—especially for those cancers without any current means of testing—and reaffirms the importance of finding new, well-tolerated treatments for every stage from precancerous lesions through metastatic disease.  

While cancer death rates have declined substantially over the last several decades, not all Americans have benefitted from advancements in cancer care. Black Americans, for instance, have the highest death rate and shortest survival of any racial or ethnic group in the country for most cancers. Eliminating these kinds of disparities and ensuring equitable access to cancer prevention, screening, clinical trials, and treatment services, features prominently in the plan.

“Getting better care—care that we know is effective—to the people who need it most is an urgent need in this country,” said Dr. Winer. “Whether it’s reaching patients in rural areas who need to travel long distances to receive service or reaching people in urban areas who lack access, it’s critical to identify and fix the barriers to care and gaps in treatment as soon as possible.”

Aside from supporting discovery and translational science, ASCO is addressing access challenges through numerous projects and programs, including a multi-year pilot program to increase access to high-quality cancer care in rural areas, a collaboration with the Association of Community Cancer Centers to increase racial and ethnic diversity in clinical trials, a summer oncology internship program for medical students from underrepresented populations in medicine, and publication of Oncology Medical Home standards with the Community Oncology Alliance to provide oncology practices with a comprehensive care delivery system.

“From foundational biology to transformative scientific discoveries, from public policy to private sector partnerships, it’s going to take a significant, sweeping effort to reduce cancer incidence and deaths and the National Cancer Plan provides clear goals, strategies, and a call to action to achieve that goal,” said Dr. Winer. “ASCO stands ready and eager to work with NCI and the entire cancer community to put this plan into action as soon as possible—we have to act now!”