A View from the CLOUD: MD Anderson’s Moon Shot to End Cancer

43 years ago, on July 21, Neil Armstrong stepped on to the surface of the moon; 15 years ago tomorrow on LIVESTRONG day, Lance Armstrong was diagnosed with cancer; and 9 years ago this month, my own wife, Maureen, was diagnosed with breast cancer, while pregnant with our now 8.5 year old daughter, Katelyn.

As MD Anderson Cancer Center announces its Moon Shot in the fight against cancer, I know I’m not alone in my enthusiasm for their success. I’m sure that 28M other cancer survivors, their loved ones, their families and their friends are equally excited to hear similar words to Neil Armstrong’s: “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” Reaching the moon in this case means putting this disease behind us once and for all. However, May 25, 1961 is an even more important date than July 21, 1969, when Neil spoke these words from the moon.
May 25, 1961, 51 years ago, is when President Kennedy announced the decision to go to the moon in front of a joint session of Congress. The work that followed this speech is the real legacy of the moon shot. As Naveen Rao makes clear in his blog post at LIVESTRONG, “One of the well documented successes of the space program of the 60’s was that the nation truly came together and collaborated towards the same goal.”
Cancer, cancer research, and all aspects of cancer support and community are indeed a collaborative effort. If you think about the Apollo program, there were a number of critical systems that had to work together for success. From the rockets that provided the propulsion to leave Earth’s gravity to the landing vehicle, capable of landing smoothly on the surface of the moon, to the reentry vehicle, that not only left the moon but did not burn up on reentry, to the astronauts themselves who prepared for all aspects of this journey, the moon shot was a testament to systemic thinking, rather than process-based linear approaches.
CLOUD was born out of a belief that increasing the velocity of connections between both people and data will not only transform the Internet but help us in “Rethinking the Fight Against Cancer.” Without a systemic rethinking of the Internet, as well as the fight against cancer, we will not achieve “a cancer treatment system that can outsmart an individual’s disease and offer them more than just comfort or hope,” as Naveen articulated in his post. To achieve this system will not only require MD Anderson to “work outside their walls” but will require all of us to rethink the physical geography of healthcare. Technology, like the Moon Shot, doesn’t just let us do old things in new ways but allows us to do new things.

We are honored to have LIVESTRONG in CLOUD’s Founding Circle as we seek to achieve this goal of doing new things with the Internet. On 2.19.11 TEDxAustin welcomed me to their stage to tell my family’s story with cancer, as well as share CLOUD’s goal of “Reweaving the Fabric of the Internet to Transform Humanity.” It is our sincere desire that this new digital fabric for the Internet will not only increase the velocity of connections amongst researchers and patients but also “free the data” in new ways, so that MD Anderson’s Moon Shot, LIVESTRONG’s 15 year effort being celebrated this month, and the many brilliant minds around the world working towards a cure can come together to beat cancer.
When we do, “that one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” are words that will be spoken not just by one man on the moon but 28M people all around the world celebrating a monumental achievement in our history as a species.