Updated 16 March 2017

SA doctor heads 'Moonshot 2020' team to develop cancer vaccine

The world's wealthiest doctor, Patrick Soon-Shiong, has launched a new alliance with the hope of finding a vaccine-based immunotherapy treatment for cancer before the end of the decade.

Patrick Soon-Shiong, a billionaire doctor, researcher and founder of NantHealth from South Africa will head up a coalition of major players in the healthcare industry in a bid to developing an immunotherapy vaccine to fight cancer.

Unprecedented collaboration

Immunotherapy is a type of treatment aimed at mobilising the body's own immune system to better fight off cancer and other diseases.

Known as the National Immunotherapy Coalition (NIC), the alliance consists of universities, pharmaceutical companies and insurance providers and aims to accelerate research and development.

The NIC's main focus is an initiative known as Cancer Moonshot 2020 which aims to "develop an effective vaccine-based immunotherapy to combat cancer by 2020", their website explains. 

"This unprecedented collaboration of multinational pharmaceutical, biotechnology companies, academic centres and community oncologists will make possible access to over 60 novel and approved agents under exploration in the war against cancer and will enable rapid testing of novel immunotherapy combination protocols, forming the basis of ‎The Cancer MoonShot 2020."

By 2020, the NIC hopes to have completed 20 different clinical trials, investigating 20 different types of tumours and involving 20 000 participants, Bloomberg adds.

The Moonshot initiative will play an important role in the USA's new focus on eliminating cancer. In his last State of the Union address held last night, President Barack Obama pledged a historic focus on finding a cure for cancer, with vice-president Joe Biden heading up the administration's efforts, Reuters reports.

"The ambitious goals of the Cancer MoonShot 2020 Programme were presented at a meeting hosted by Vice President Joseph Biden at his Naval Observatory residence in Washington DC on 1 December, 2015, where members of the coalition presented their shared vision for translating the promise of precision medicine through the delivery of combination immunotherapy to routine clinical cancer care, as well as their shared commitment to accelerate the development of immunotherapy and vaccine therapy as the next generation evolution of cancer care," NantHealth explains in a press release.

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CANSA’s purpose is to lead the fight against cancer in South Africa. Its mission is to be the preferred non-profit organisation that enables research, educates the public and provides support to all people affected by cancer. Questions are answered by CANSA’s Head of Health Professor Michael Herbst. For more information, visit

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