Biden's 'Cancer Moonshot' About to Be Relaunched

Roxanne Nelson, RN, BSN

February 03, 2022

The "Cancer Moonshot" is about to be relaunched!

In a White House briefing, President Joe Biden announced that he is "reigniting" the initiative he spearheaded when he was Vice President during the Obama administration.

During the livestreamed event, the President discussed his plans to bring a "fierce sense of urgency" to the fight against cancer and better support patients with cancer and their families.

Biden emphasized that cancer is one of the truly bipartisan issues. There is strong support from both "sides of the aisle," and he sees it as an issue that can bring the country together.

"We can do this. I promise you, we can do this. For all those we lost, for all those we miss. We can end cancer as we know it," said President Biden. "This is a presidential White House priority."

The aim is to reduce the death rate from cancer by at least 50% over the next 25 years.

One of the efforts will be directed to get people back to routine cancer screenings, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, with a special focus on ensuring equitable access. 

There is also a proposal to create the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, a new program that would focus on driving cutting-edge innovation in health research.

Part of the plan is also to assemble a "cancer cabinet" that includes 18 federal departments, agencies and offices, including leaders from the Departments of Health & Human Services, Veterans Affairs, Defense, Energy, and Agriculture.

At present, there are few details about the new program or how it will be funded.

Presumably more will be revealed at the Cancer Moonshot Summit being planned, as well as on a planned new website where people can track its progress.

President Priority

Cancer Moonshot began back in 2016, when during his last State of the Union Address, former President Barack Obama announced the ambitious initiative. A few days later, Obama asked Congress for $1 billion to send cancer to the moon, and he put Biden, then Vice President, in charge of "mission control" in the remaining months of the administration.

The new initiative will be headed by Danielle Carnival, PhD, who serves in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and has been appointed as White House Cancer Moonshot coordinator.

At the briefing, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris both spoke about losing family members to cancer. Biden spoke about his eldest son Beau, who died from brain cancer when he was 46 years old, while Harris spoke about her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, a breast cancer researcher who died of colon cancer in 2009.

Accolades But a Bit of Caution

The President's speech was applauded by many cancer groups, both professional organizations and patient advocacy groups.

Karen E. Knudsen, PhD, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society and its advocacy affiliate, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, commended Biden for reigniting Cancer Moonshot.

"In 2022 alone, there will be an estimated 1.9 million people diagnosed with cancer and more than 600,000 people in the US will die. Marshaling the resources of the federal government will be critical in our ability to reduce death and suffering from this disease," she commented.

The American Society for Radiation Oncology issued a press release, saying: "On behalf of radiation oncologists who treat people with cancer every day, we support the Biden-Harris administration's move to drastically reduce the number of cancer deaths in the United States and improve the lives of people diagnosed with this disease."

"We believe the administration's commitment to expand cancer prevention efforts and to increase equitable access to screenings and treatments will help mitigate some of the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic," the society commented.

At the American Association for Cancer Research, Chief Executive Officer Margaret Foti, MD, PhD, said she was thrilled to hear the historic announcement after the devastating interruptions in cancer research and patient care over the past 2 years.

"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," she commented.

However, increased funding from Congress will be needed for these goals to be achieved, she emphasized.

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