President Joe Biden announced today that he is relaunching the Cancer Moonshot initiative, with the goal of decreasing cancer-related deaths by 50% within the next 25 years.
Today, President Joe Biden announced that he is relaunching the Cancer Moonshot program, with the goals of reducing the death rate from cancer by at least 50% over the next 25 years and improving the experience of individuals and families affected by cancer. In short, the president explained that he is looking to end cancer as we know it.
“For each of the ways we know cancer today, we know that we can change its trajectory,” said president Biden in a press conference.
In order to improve cancer outcomes, it is essential for researchers, scientists and clinicians to come together and work toward a common goal. Cancer care too often is conducted in silos, the president said, and it is time that patient data be shared.
Addressing Pandemic Delays to Cancer Screenings
The president and his wife, First Lady Jill Biden, are also calling on patients to undergo cancer screenings that were missed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The couple is working to ensure that everyone in the country sees equal benefits from the tools available to prevent, detect and diagnose cancer.
Biden explained that over the last two years, Americans missed more than 9 million cancer screenings because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“So today, I’m announcing a call to action for cancer screening and early detection. If you were supposed to get a cancer screening during the pandemic, call your primary care doctor today. If you’re that doctor, talk to your patients. Get a screening schedule,” Biden said.
Through early detection and the collaborative efforts that lead to breakthrough therapies, the president is hopeful to decrease cancer deaths in the United States.
A Focus on Funding
“My plea to you, scientists, is to share the best you can. My plea to members in Congress — let’s fund this particular program and focus on it until we beat it,” Biden said. “And to the American people — keep hope alive. There is hope.”
In a statement, Dr. Howard A. “Skip” Burris III, board chair at the Association for Clinical Oncology (ASCO), applauded the relaunch of the Moonshot, citing that since the original Moonshot was announced in 2016, more than $1 billion was provided to the National Cancer Institute for advances in prevention, diagnoses and treatment.
"We are especially glad to see that the proposal includes a major focus on equity, diversity and inclusion. For all the progress we’ve made to improve cancer prevention, screening, care, and outcomes for patients, stubborn disparities continue to persist,” Burris said. “ASCO and other stakeholders have been working on this issue for more than a decade, and with support from the Administration, we hope that we’ll be able to accelerate this progress and make headway towards true equity in cancer.”
Dr. Margaret Foti, CEO of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), noted that the urgency that the Cancer Moonshot brings is crucial — especially after nearly two years of interruptions to cancer research and patient care due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The reignited Cancer Moonshot will provide an important framework to help improve cancer prevention strategies, increase cancer screenings and early detection, reduce cancer disparities and propel new lifesaving cures for patients with cancer,” Foti said.
Foti also mentioned that in order accomplish the goals the president mentioned, it is crucial that Biden works with Congress to finalize the fiscal year 2022 appropriations process with “robust funding increases for the (National Institutes of Health) and (National Cancer Institute)” as well as announce more investments in cancer research as part of the 2023 budget request.
The History of the Cancer Moonshot and Biden Cancer Initiative
The Cancer Moonshot was originally established in 2016 and led by Biden, who at that time was the Vice President of the United States. The national endeavor sought to make 10 years’ worth of progress in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment within five years’ time.
The project was funded by the 21st Century Cures Act, where Congress invested $1.8 billion over seven years for cancer research. The law was monumental in establishing the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) establishment of the Oncology Center of Excellence, which sped up the approval process for effective cancer drugs.
Now, the Moonshot is picking up where it left off, and has more ambitious goals than ever.
“It’s bold. It’s ambitious, but it’s completely doable… We’ll bring a fierce sense of urgency in the fight against cancer,” Biden said.
Fighting Cancer Is Personal in the White House
The fight against cancer is a personal one for the president and first Lady. Their son, Beau, died of glioblastoma — a type of brain cancer — in May 2015. In 2018, President Biden speculated that the diagnosis might have been a result of Beau’s exposure to toxic burn pits when he was serving in the Kosovo and Iraq Wars.
At the press conference, Biden acknowledged the doctor who worked for 18 months trying to save Beau’s life.
“You see that doctor on the end there?” Biden said in the press conference, motioning over to an audience member. “That’s the man who spent 18 months trying to save our son’s life. Doctor, we love you.”
Vice President Kamala Harris also has a personal connection to cancer as her mother was a breast cancer researcher who eventually died after a colon cancer diagnosis.
“My mother’s discoveries helped save women’s lives, and I’m so proud that she brought our nation and our world closer to the goal of ending breast cancer as we know it. And today, we are closer than we’ve ever been,” Harris said.
As scientists, researchers and clinicians today continue to dedicate their lives to ending cancer, Jill Biden says that she is optimistic.
“We are not hopeless, and we are not helpless. We are living in a golden age of research and discovery,” the First Lady said.
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