Biden Re-Launches His ‘Cancer Moonshot’ Initiative

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden announced the relaunch of the government’s “moonshot” program that seeks to cut cancer deaths in the country by 50% over the next few decades.

Biden first launched “moonshot” in 2016 while serving as vice-president under President Barack Obama, allocating a total of $1.8 billion to be spent over seven years.

“Working together over the next 25 years, we will cut today’s age-adjusted death rate from cancer by at least 50 percent,” the White House said in a statement.

Cancer is also a personal issue for Biden. His eldest son Beau died of brain cancer in 2015 at the age of 46.

Biden announced the plan at the White House alongside Vice-President Kamala Harris. Harris’s mother was a breast cancer researcher and died of colon cancer in 2009. Harris said her mother’s work had “saved women’s lives.”

“This can really be an American moment to prove to ourselves and, quite frankly, the world that we can do really big things,” the president said at a ceremony for the program.

The revamped moonshot has two goals, according to a White House fact sheet: cutting the age-adjusted death rate from cancer by a least 50% over the next 25 years, and improving the experience of people and their families living with and surviving cancer.

The president also said he is forming a “cancer cabinet” made up of various federal departments and agencies, including the departments of Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, Defense, Energy, and Agriculture, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency, NIH, National Cancer Institute (NCI), FDA, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, CDC, and various White House officials.

The cabinet will help establish and make progress on Cancer Moonshot goals, and will be led by Eric Lander, Ph.D., director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Biden also called on Congress to fund his proposal for an Advanced Research Project Agency for Health (ARPA-H).

“This is a new kind of entity within the NIH with the autonomy and authorities to drive unprecedented progress in biomedicine,” he said. “ARPA-H will have a singular purpose to drive breakthroughs to prevent, detect, and treat diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and other diseases. I think there’s strong bipartisan support for this, but it costs money. These are the best dollars we could spend, so we’ve got to get it done.”

The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be almost 2 million cancer cases this year, of which more than 600,000 will result in death.

The White House’s plan is to bring the number of deaths down by around 300,000 per year.
Cancer-related deaths have already fallen by around a quarter when adjusted for age. The death rate currently stands at 146 per 100,000 people, down from around 200 in the year 2000.

“Because of recent progress in cancer therapeutics, diagnostics, and patient-driven care, as well as the scientific advances and public health lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s now possible to set ambitious goals,” the White House said.

“Taken together, these actions will drive us toward ending cancer as we know it today.”

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