Vice President Biden Calls for Greater Urgency at Cancer Moonshot Summit

At the Cancer Moonshot Summit, the vice president announced several new initiatives that support the program’s goals of speeding up cancer research.
BY Katie Kosko
PUBLISHED June 29, 2016
“Time matters, days matter, minutes matter.” Vice President Joe Biden emphasized urgency today as he addressed hundreds of researchers, oncologists, nurses, patients, families and patient advocates at the first ever Cancer Moonshot Summit at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

In addition to this summit, more than 270 regional summits took place across the country in all 50 states as well as Puerto Rico and Guam.

Biden not only stressed the importance of urgency when it comes to cancer research, but also urgency in getting newly discovered information reported in a timely, more efficient manner.

“To seize the moment, we have to improve how we work together and get this all within our reach,” Biden told his audience.

Keeping that in mind, Biden announced several new actions that support the goals of the Moonshot, with the White House later releasing a statement with the details of more than 30 other initiatives.

They include making clinical trials more available to all patients with cancer; harnessing big data to transform veteran health; the National Institutes of Health (NIH) collaborating with 12 biopharmaceutical companies, multiple research foundations, philanthropies and the Foundation for the NIH, to develop a new program called the Partnership for Accelerating Cancer Therapies (PACT); and the Breast Cancer Foundations plan to double its annual cancer research investment from $50 million to $100 million by 2021.

A new Oncology Center of Excellence (OCE) was created by the FDA aimed at uniting cancer product regulatory review to enhance coordination and leverage the combined skills and clinical expertise across FDA centers.

In addition, Biden touted the initial success of the Genomic Data Commons (GDC), a first-of-its-kind public data platform for storing, analyzing and sharing genomic and associated clinical data on cancer, which launched just about a month ago. The number of patients has already doubled to 32,000 in that short time.

“With your brilliance we can win, if we’re devoted to winning it – in a timely fashion – meaning yesterday,” he said.

Biden’s plan is to make decades’ worth of progress in just five years, getting rid of the culture that he says medical professionals are currently stuck in of slowing up progress.

The Cancer Moonshot program was announced by President Barack Obama in his final State of the Union address in January and had become a personal mission for the vice president, who lost his oldest son, Joseph Robinette “Beau” Biden III, at age 46 to brain cancer last year after a long battle with the disease.

In addition to calling for an increase of collaboration between researchers and medical professionals, Biden, for the first time, also threatened to cut off federal funding.

He spoke of a report that found institutions, which receive the most financial assistance for cancer trials from NIH, sometimes take a year or more to report back to NIH.

“NIH scientists themselves, 75 percent of the time are late or don’t report their results,” said Biden. “That’s the study, it may be wrong, and I hope the experts here will tell me that’s correct, but under the law it says you must report. If you don’t report, the law says you shouldn’t get any funding. Doc – I’m gonna find out if it’s true and if it’s true I’m gonna cut funding. That’s a promise. That’s a promise.”

He also called for ideas to find more affordable cancer treatments, which he feels is one of the biggest problems that needs to be solved.

“What is the possible justification when a lifesaving drug, at the time it is brought to market it, costs $26,000 a year, and 15 years later it costs $120,000?” said Biden. “Tell me, tell me, tell me, what is the justification for that?”

Biden asked researchers, oncologists and other medical professionals to educate him; he also urged them to tell the federal government what it should be doing to make mechanical and structural changes that can make a difference.

“The only thing I’m good at in government is getting things out of the way,” he joked.

The vice president’s next stop is Cleveland tomorrow, where he will highlight a tobacco cessation and screening program.
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