It is estimated that 40,000 Veterans are diagnosed each year with cancer and of that number, 12,000 are diagnosed with prostate cancer. Because of those staggering prostate cancer numbers, the VA joined with the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) to co-host a one-day summit, Launch Pad: Pathways to Cancer InnoVAtion. The event brings together world-class oncology experts, corporate and nonprofit partners to discuss research, big data, technology and clinical solutions to advance screening, diagnostics and care coordination for cancer and to promote the implementation of best practices across the VA healthcare system.

“Fighting and treating cancer among our Veterans is a team effort, which is why this Launch Pad event and this partnership with PCF are so important,” said VA Secretary Bob McDonald. “To effectively serve our Veterans and to keep VA on the cutting edge of medical research, we need government, corporate, and non-profit organizations working together. We are truly grateful to the Prostate Cancer Foundation for this important show of support. Our work together will save Veterans’ lives.”

A panel discussion at Tuesday's VA Launchpad event on Tuesday, Nov. 29 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

A panel discussion at Tuesday’s VA Launchpad event on Tuesday, Nov. 29 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

As part of the summit, PCF announced a $50-million precision oncology initiative to expand prostate cancer clinical research among Veterans to speed the development of new treatment options and cures. The agreement is the first partnership between PCF and VA. Of the thousands of Veterans diagnosed each year with prostate cancer, African-Americans, in particular, are 64 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer compared to any other race or ethnicity and 2.4 times more likely to die from the disease.

The goals of the PCF partnership are to increase the number of Veterans Health Administration (VHA) investigators applying to PCF for funding; increase the number of VHA facilities involved in precision medicine/prostate cancer clinical trials; increase the number of Veterans enrolled in studies, providing veteran specimens or data used in studies as well as increase the number of minorities enrolled in PCF studies; and increase the number of early career scientists working on prostate cancer research.

“Our goal is to increase our scientific understanding of prostate cancer among Veterans and to kick-start the development of precision medicine treatments for them, as well as the general population,” said Jonathan W. Simons, MD, President and Chief Executive Officer, PCF. “This agreement will open new doors for the research community to work with Veterans facing a life threatening disease and ultimately reduce the disease burden on America’s Veterans.”

VA has a long history in cancer prevention and research. Currently, VA’s cancer research portfolio supported 262 active projects with $53.5 million in fiscal year 2016, toward understanding and preventing cancers prevalent in the Veteran population. In addition, VA research also has ongoing collaborations and data-sharing with other public agencies, and profit and non-profit corporations to enhance cancer research, including studies that support the national Precision Medicine Initiative.


The VA cancer research portfolio supported 262 active projects with $53.5 million in fiscal year 2016, toward understanding and preventing cancers prevalent in the Veteran population. VA researchers conduct laboratory experiments aimed at discovering the molecular and genetic mechanisms involved in cancer; studies looking at the causes of disease; clinical trials to evaluate new or existing treatments; and studies focused on improving end-of-life care. The work is conducted through the biomedical, clinical, rehabilitation, and health services research services of the Office of Research and Development (ORD), as well as through ORD’s Cooperative Studies Program. VA Research also has ongoing collaborations and data-sharing with other public agencies, and profit and non-profit corporations to enhance cancer research, including studies that support the national Precision Medicine Initiative.

Below are highlights of VA’s efforts in cancer research:

  • Million Veteran Program (MVP): This innovative and ambitious VA program has become the world’s largest database of health, lifestyle, military exposure and genetic data, hitting the half-million enrollment mark in summer 2016. MVP continues to enroll Veterans at more than 50 VA medical centers and clinics nationwide. With nearly a third of participants reporting a history of cancer, MVP is a rich resource for genetic explorations relating to cancer therapy. Researchers in MVP are also working closely with the Department of Defense (DoD) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop collaborations and data-sharing through interagency agreements. The agreement with DoD will enable enrollment of active-duty members from the Millennium Cohort Study into MVP. The agreement with NIH will enable enrollment of Veterans into NIH’s Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program (PMI-CP).
  • Informatics infrastructure: Sharing and analysis of “big data” is enhanced by resources such as the Veterans Informatics and Computing Infrastructure (VINCI), a VA data-sharing platform; and the Genomic Information System for Integrated Science (GenISIS), which supports enrollment and secure computing for MVP. VA also has data-use agreements in place with a number of federal research partners.
  • VA Precision Oncology Program: VA’s Precision Oncology Program (POP) is an innovative approach to provide standardized state-of-the-art practices in precision oncology care and research for VA cancer care specialists and Veterans.  The program is based at VA’s Massachusetts Veterans Epidemiology Research and Information Center (MAVERIC) in Boston. It facilitates genomic analysis, tissue repository and molecular oncology support to enhance clinical care and future participation in clinical trials. The program has laid the foundation for VA’s participation in the Applied Proteogenomics Organizational Learning and Outcomes consortium, a partnership with the Department of Defense and the National Cancer Institute to tailor cancer care for patients based on the genes and proteins associated with their tumors.
  • VA Cooperative Studies Program: The VA Cooperative Studies Program (CSP) is an efficient platform for multicenter clinical trials involving thousands of Veterans. One past study (CSP #380) set the standard for early colorectal cancer screening by showing the effectiveness of colonoscopy over sigmoidoscopy.  A CSP study now underway to compare colonoscopy with fecal immunochemical testing for colorectal cancer screening aims to enroll 50,000 Veterans in all. It has already become the largest single VA clinical trial in history.
  • VA Cancer Registries:  There are two components of the registry system: (1) facility registries and (2) the VA Central Cancer Registry.  In VA, there are over 50,000 new cancer cases among Veterans each year.  These account for about 3.5 percent of all cancer cases in the U.S. Data from VA cancer registries are shared with:
    • State central cancer registries supported by the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Program of Cancer Registries.Together, these data contribute to an annual national accounting of cancer.
    • Commission on Cancer’s National Cancer Database (NCDB).  VA facilities that are certified by the Commission on Cancer provide cancer registry data to the Commission on Cancer’s NCDB, which includes about 70 percent of cancers in the U.S.
  • The VA cancer registry is a useful research tool because of VA’s extensive clinical record systems.  The registry has been linked (e.g., in VINCI) with other VA datasets for new knowledge discovery and operational needs to improve the lives of patients with cancer.  The Clinical Case Registry package assists local VA practitioners in monitoring and managing populations of Veterans with specific conditions.

Cancer Moonshot-related Efforts

  • Harnessing Big Data to Transform Veteran Health through Precision Medicine:  VA and the Department of Energy are collaborating to apply the most powerful computational assets at DoE’s National Labs to Veterans’ records from the Million Veteran Program, a cornerstone of the Precision Medicine Initiative. This is a five-year, renewable commitment with $3.5 million allocated in fiscal year 2016.  The first phase of the partnership will focus on cancer, cardiovascular disease, and mental health issues, and the resulting platform will accelerate our understanding of disease detection, progression, prevention, and treatment by combing MVP’s rich clinical, environmental, and genomic data to enable cutting-edge science.
  • Tri-Agency Coalition to Advance Proteogenomics Cancer Care: VA, the Department of Defense and the National Cancer Institute are collaborating to create the nation’s first integrated proteogenomics cancer discovery-to-clinical care implementation system.  The system will use state-of-the-art methods in proteogenomics to collectively analyze data from up to 8,000 patients to develop a deeper understanding of cancer biology. The researchers will use this information to identify potential targets for cancer detection and intervention.  Efforts will initially focus on lung cancer, but will expand to incorporate multiple cancer types, and aim to enable better testing of clinical questions on toxicity and response, sequencing and proteomics, analysis of samples and use of data science and analysis tools within the framework of two national health care systems.


Private-Sector Commitments

  • IBM’s Watson: IBM is collaborating with VA to provide Watson-powered genome analysis technology to help clinicians develop personalized treatment plans for thousands of Veterans with cancer. IBM will provide Watson’s cognitive computing capabilities, which have been specifically trained for genomic analysis, to scientists and pathologists who have sequenced DNA for VA cancer patients, to help them pinpoint the likely cancer-causing mutations and identify treatments that target those specific mutations. This is a data-intensive process that has been difficult to scale in the past. As America’s largest integrated health system, VA provides care to 3 percent of the nation’s cancer patients – the largest cohort of cancer patients in the country. Watson is expected to give Veterans faster access to personalized care, particularly for patients with advanced cancer. The collaboration with VA is also expected to advance genomic research.
  • OneSource: The University of California Office of the President, University of California Health, the Athena Breast Health Network, Quantum Leap Healthcare Collaborative, and Salesforce commit to establishing a new transformative model for health care delivery that evolves the point of care into a patient-centric data hub. By introducing the use of standard “OneSource” checklists for cancer care documentation, and enabling feedback, and multiple connections to registries, trials, and research, VA will create a patient centric data hub. The systems of care and research can be integrated, accelerating learning and driving efficiency and healthcare value. This new model has evolved from our experience personalizing screening and prevention for over 100,000 breast cancer patients in the Athena Breast Health Network and the launch of the PCORI funded Wisdom study; seamless connection to real-time clinical trial registries (CT match/Veterans Affairs and and adapting care through trials (I-SPY, 20 clinical sites). In the same way data aggregation has transformed such industries as communications, retail, and financial services, the intelligent application of patient clinical trial data will be a disruptive technology that drives the personalization of cancer medicine.
  • Stanford University: VA Hadron Radiation Therapy Partnership. The goal of this collaboration would be to establish a Hadron Center on VA’s Palo Alto VA Medical Center campus. The facility would consist of proton beam radiation therapy, research, and the first carbon beam radiation therapy established in the United States, designed to enhance healthcare delivery services for our nation’s Veterans, and Stanford Medicine patients.
  • American Cancer Society: VA is partnering with the American Cancer Society (ACS) to develop Veteran-centric initiatives and activities around cancer screening, diagnosis and survivorship. ACS has always had a strong commitment to serving Veterans, demonstrated by their dedication to providing support resources to Veterans and their families struggling with cancer as well as engaging VA leaders and providers in discussing important issues such as colon cancer screening, lung cancer screening and others. A new initiative announced today expands the partnership by setting a long-term plan to collaborate and coordinate efforts to improve the lives of Veterans living with cancer or at risk for cancer.

About the author: Matthew S. Collier is senior advisor to the secretary for strategic partnerships.


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Published on Nov. 29, 2016

Estimated reading time is 9.7 min.

Views to date: 221


  1. Raymond C. Des Marais, Jr. December 2, 2016 at 9:28 pm

    Hurray …the final cancer breakthrough!

  2. Raymond C. Des Marais, Jr. December 2, 2016 at 9:25 pm

    Dear Secretary Bob & Mr. Matt Collier,
    Earlier I had sent to you the answer to cancer with the publication – ‘Healing is Voltage’ Cancer’s On/Off Switches: Polarity by Jerry Tennant, MD Therefore, I’m very disappointed that Dr. Tennant was not part of your forum. Dr. Tennant’s book is an extraordinary cancer publication which puts the emphasis upstream of the 45-years of research on the somatic mutation of the genome, which is caused by the damage to the cell’s mitochondria…the mitochondria damage is caused by the cell’s intracellular voltage having dropped from -20Mv down past zero (0) to + 30 Mv. To cure any cancer, one must therefore reverse the cancer’s On switch to Off as very well described in Dr. Tennant’s book that you have in your possession!! Please be aware – most cancers are driven by dental root canals, crowns, and cavitations where infected teeth used to be located. In particular, prostate cancer is driven by the cavitations where ‘wisdom’ teeth molars were.


  3. Patrick William Reese December 2, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    I’d like to see the video of this important summit posted here. Thanks.

  4. Gary Walsh December 2, 2016 at 2:03 pm

    The headline of this article leads one to believe there are no other options because these men and women are the greatest minds. That simply is not true. While they may be the greatest minds in the Alopathic Reductionist System, they are just flat out not the greatest minds. They are only the greatest minds based upon a flawed system. They only occupy one slice of the pie. The other slices have been left out.

  5. Dwayne Oxford December 2, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    Those of us who’ve taken the initiative to learn and look past lucifer’s pharma’s perpetual research and treatment scam know the cure for cancer and many other illnesses is hyperbaric and Cannabis.
    Pharma is feverishly working surreptitiously to get the monopoly on Cannabis and are obscenely paying FDA, DEA and legislators to keep their evil prohibition of Cannabis in effect until they do.
    Genesis 1:29
    And God said, Behold, I have given you EVERY!! herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

  6. Nick Oshana December 2, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    My VA PCP VAMC Newington, was first to pick up a spike in my PSA (I have tracked this for years). I found an outside Doctor with a Great reputation and had Prostate removed. Time will tell (after all this is cancer). I am glad my VA doctor is so alert and my outside doctor keeps me fully informed. Glad I selected wisely.

  7. Judd Gambill December 2, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    Phoenix VA remains substandard. They were giving me two conflicting/masking medications that resulted in years of undiagnosed cancer. Here is a cut&paste from one record.



    • Gary Hicks December 2, 2016 at 2:59 pm

      Mr. Gambill,

      I redacted the copy and paste portion in your comment as it is a part of your medical record. Federal privacy laws prevent us from publishing any portion of a protected record. However, you are more than welcome to describe your experience with VA in detail.

  8. STEPHEN M D LARO December 2, 2016 at 12:56 pm

    At the VAMCs, at Manchester, NH, and Boston, I was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer in 2011, and completed an initial Hormonal and the 44 sessions of Radiation treatment in Oct 2016.

    At this point I still have no idea of what my current condition is? If treatment is to continue? Will the side affects from the Radiation go away?

    Why are no follow-up appointments scheduled, for me to be advised of these things by my VA’s Chief of Surgery – Urologist? He who initiated the contracted treatment of Hormone/Radiation treatment at the Concord Hospital and now I cannot get any current status, updates, or plans for any towards future treatments.

    I have read Nancy Barnum’s Statement above, and I am very happy that the Provider’s for her Husband were an obvious positive factor in his treatment plan, as well as her gained knowledge from the process.

    I have have to infer that the West L.A., VAMC Doctors are deeply more into keeping their patients fully informed as well as intensive work for their patients and family. Which means that one also must infer, that not all other VAMC’s are anywhere close to that high a level of patient care provided from West LA and SD VAMCs.

    I have read the above featured Launch Pad stories above and many others of similar praise for Studies, Research, state of the art programs for assorted ailments. I read them in thorough despair, as the stories go on describing their, in-place treatment plans that are allegedly working highly successfully. While in our local VAMCs, nothing is anything even close to their programs are available to compare, in reality to these ‘stories’ printed.

    Who are these questionable articles meant to impress, especially to us that are not in the vicinity of these dream facilities!

    Good and fortunate for those that are in that vicinity!

    • Xavier Jackson December 3, 2016 at 1:46 pm

      I too am a veteran with cml.the dav has given there….to kiss.I was station at ft Bragg from 85 to88 we trained against marines from camp Lejeune as opposing forces.the water games from the contaminated water from Lejeune that. We drank while in the field.I can’t get any help from my Vamc as my cml is diagnosed as uncontrollable on top of that the idiot chief of primary( non veteran)acknowledge he screwed up and didn’t or my chemotherapy because he didn’t know fee based several hospitalizations later I still suffer because of the Carl Vinson Vamc..Wtf!

  9. Phillip L Kendall December 2, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    I was in the Air Force from 67 thru 74 have been diagnosed with CML have checked family history did not find anyone in either family tree that was reported. Have been retired due to the cml and side effects. Have been told by VA that I make to much money. Nobody knows what causes it. Was exposed to some nasty chemicals during my tours not sure which way to go from here.

  10. Joseph Cascio December 2, 2016 at 11:36 am

    I have been diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. Thus far I have received radiation treatment. I am still receiving hormone treatment. I feel the medical services I have received so far through the Austin VA outpatient clinic have been top notch. I would however be interested in some of the treatment options described in the article. Can anyone point me in the right direction to get on board?

  11. Nancy Barnum December 2, 2016 at 2:35 am

    Dr. Bronstein from West L.A. VAMC AND DR. Stephanie Lessiq at SD VAMC have been my husband’s doctors for the last 22 yrs. He’s had PD. The worst case ever. Medications wouldn’t work. In 8 yrs. Ron went through 4 DBS GENERATORS, BATTERIES, before he passed last year. I cannot say enough for what these 2 MAGNIFICENT DOCTORS AND THEIR STAFF have done to give my husband the life he had. Emergency replacement the next morning, not waking up after the first DBS cause Ron was so relieved and relaxed for the first time in 14 years, plus more unbelievable stories. My LOVE, THANKS, AND ANYTHING ELSE I CAN SAY FOR HOW THEIR TREATMENT FOR MY HUSBAND THEY GAVE HIM. THANK YOU.

    • ARNOLD MILLER CABRAL December 2, 2016 at 12:08 pm


  12. Robert Villaruz December 1, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    Great source of information, I’m impressed by the way the VA had done to make sure that every veteran gets taken care of.

    • Derrick G. Ryals Sr December 2, 2016 at 10:14 pm

      This is a very interesting article! It is truly depressing that so many veterans go through a life changing experience and extremely upsetting that these percentages are that high! I have had this surgery “Robotic-assisted prostatectomy” and I am a veteran of the USN! Although I am Proud to have served my country against foreign and domestic, we should take part in research and improvement solutions to minimize the increased numbers of all cancer victims!!! This is a start, let us finish “OUR” goal, to minimize this issue and especially to our families that voluntered to protect “ALL” against the enemies of the United States! As an African American with 23 years of service who retired in 2004, unfortunately I had to go through this procedure and it is difficult And a life changer!
      I would like to know from the percentages provided a breakdown from each branch of service the number of each individual’s by race?
      Also the type of duties that these servicemen performed?
      I think that this info will provide a clue to why!!percentages are that high!

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