Berger, Bluestone Named to White House Cancer Moonshot Expert Panel

By Mike Billings

Mitchel Berger
Mitchel Berger, MD

Mitchel Berger, MD, and Jeff Bluestone, PhD, have been named to a Blue Ribbon Panel of scientific experts, cancer leaders and patient advocates that will help to guide the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative.

The UC San Francisco faculty members will help to inform the scientific direction and goals of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), for the initiative.

“This Blue Ribbon Panel will ensure that, as NIH allocates new resources through the Moonshot, decisions will be grounded in the best science,” said Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading the national initiative. “I look forward to working with this panel and many others involved with the Moonshot to make unprecedented improvements in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer.”

Jeff Bluestone is pictured in his UCSF lab
Jeff Bluestone, PhD

The appointments to the Blue Ribbon Panel are UCSF’s latest involvement in the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative.

Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, PhD, visited UCSF on Feb. 27 as part of a national “listening tour” they launched to better understand the state of cancer research and care. In March, Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS, and other top UCSF leaders met with the vice president’s staff in Washington, D.C., to follow up on a number of issues the vice president raised during his campus visit.

Berger and Bluestone now will help to deepen UCSF’s role in the Cancer Moonshot by serving on the panel that over the next several months will consider how to advance the themes that have been proposed for the initiative. The two bring strong research and clinical knowledge to the panel.

Berger, chair of neurosurgery at UCSF, consulted on the brain cancer case of Biden’s eldest son, the late Beau Biden. Berger’s clinical work includes the treatment of brain tumors in adults and children as well as epilepsy that is related to brain tumors. His research includes identifying molecular markers in gliomas as correlates of tumor progression and prognosis.

Bluestone’s lab at UCSF was the first to show that CTLA-4, a receptor on the immune system’s T cells that acts as a brake on the immune response. That work, which was done to better understand CTLA-4’s potential role in preventing organ rejection after transplant and autoimmune disease, paved the way for current cancer immunotherapy applications.

The 28-person panel, which will serve as a working group of the presidentially appointed National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB), is expected to work quickly and make its recommendations this summer. The board will advise the NCI director based on the panel’s findings, and a final report by the White House Cancer Moonshot Task Force will then be produced and delivered to President Barack Obama on Dec. 31, 2016.

Read the full press release about the Blue Ribbon Panel announcement on the NIH website.