Chargé d’Affaires James Carouso Speech: United States-Australia Cancer Moonshot Roundtable, Canberra

(As prepared for delivery – March 22, 2018)

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us here at the U.S. Embassy Canberra for today’s Cancer Moonshot roundtable. 

It’s fantastic to see such continued and active engagement in this partnership at the highest levels of government, academia and medical practice.

This initiative was established in 2016 with an aim to accelerate cancer research.  We set a goal to achieve a decade of progress in just half the time—to make more therapies available to more patients and to improve our ability to prevent cancer and detect it at an early stage.

Frankly, we needed a moonshot.  Nearly 40% of Americans will receive a cancer diagnosis at some point in their lives, and recent Australian data puts those odds at 1 in 2.      

We needed to take this leap because everyone has a cancer story.  For me, it’s my grandmother, who died from colon cancer.  It’s my grandfather, who died from lung cancer.  But it might have been your brother, your best friend or even yourself. 

Cancer has taken millions of loved ones away from us, and it’s taken an enduring toll on countless others—on survivors; families; practitioners.  And on our nations’ wellbeing.  Although that’s not to say we haven’t made progress.

Australian researchers together are the National Cancer Institute’s second largest international partner.  Between 2014 and 2016, the NCI funded 133 research grants worth more than US $170 million with collaborators across this great country.

That means we have Australia’s best minds working with us on liver cancer prognosis in Townsville; leukaemia treatments in Freemantle and melanoma prevention in Melbourne.    

Over the past 30 years or so, such cancer research has delivered us new early detection methods, more effective therapies and even preventative vaccinations.  And we’ve seen survival rates go up. 

But there’s more to be done, and collaboration is key.  Just as the modern pacemaker was only reached after decades of innovation from Australians, Americans and many others; just as nations around the world contribute people, equipment and skills to manage ebola outbreaks; we know that the fight against cancer has to be a group effort.   

The Cancer Moonshot initiative lays foundations for professionals to share more data, access wider funding and collaborate on cutting edge programs. 

The agreements forged with Australian governments and institutions aim to give all of us greater access to the people and tools we need to get this job done.  We know that the paper-pushers in Washington or Canberra can’t solve the problem, but what we can do is put in place the pathways that help you do it.

By its very definition, a ‘moonshot’ is all but out of reach. It’s an aspiration.  To some, it even looks like folly.  I’m not a doctor or nurse or researcher.  There’s not a whole lot I know when it comes to macrophages or protein degradation—these are some of the things we need to leave in your expert hands.  But what I do know is that if we don’t even try to reach for the stars, we’re never going to touch them. 

Above all, I want to take the opportunity today to simply say thank you.  Thank you for improving the lives of millions of people.  Thank you for pushing the bounds of scientific endeavor.  And thank you for continuing to tease out every needle in that cancer haystack that brings us one step closer to a cure. 

##