The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center on Friday will announce an ambitious initiative to dramatically reduce the death rates of eight common and difficult cancers.

The targets are lung, prostate and ovarian cancer, a particularly aggressive type of breast cancer, melanoma, two common types of leukemia and another blood cancer - all diseases for which there is little treatment, newfound molecular understanding and considerable M.D. Anderson expertise. They were selected by committees of internal and external reviewers after a year of discussions.

The eight selected cancers were narrowed from a list of 13 that circulated internally in July. DePinho said the ones not chosen, such as colorectal, pancreatic and bladder cancers, and others, such as sarcoma and head and neck cancers, may be added to the program later. Research on these and other cancers will continue outside the framework of the Moon Shots program.

The focus of the chosen cancers will include: replacing traditional chemotherapy used for chronic lymphocytic leukemia with less toxic, immunity-building oral treatment; determining which smokers are at greatest risk of lung cancer so they can get screening; identifying the distinguishing characteristics that distinguish a lethal prostate cancer from its more slow-growing counterparts; and discovering treatment options for ovarian cancer and triple-negative breast cancer, which are fueled by similar underlying molecular events.

Implementation of the program will begin in February 2013, M.D. Anderson officials said.