Biden to reignite Cancer Moonshot initiative to ‘end cancer as we know it today’

President Biden is expected to reignite the Obama-era Cancer Moonshot initiative on Wednesday, setting new and “ambitious goals” to reduce the death rate from cancer by at least 50 percent over the next 25 years, and “end cancer as we know it today.”

Biden first launched the Cancer Moonshot program in 2016 during the Obama administration to accelerate the rate of progress against cancer.

Biden is set to announce Wednesday that the program will be re-established with new White House leadership, including a Cancer Moonshot coordinator in the Executive Office of the President to “demonstrate the president and First Lady’s personal commitment to making progress and to leverage the whole-of-government approach and national response that the challenge of cancer demands.”

The White House is also expected to form a “cancer cabinet,” which will bring together departments and agencies across government to address cancer, including the Department of Health and Human Services; the Department of Defense; the Department of Energy; the Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, and more

Under the new initiative, the president is expected to announce new national goals, including cutting the age-adjusted death rate from cancer by at least 50 percent and working to improve “the experience of people and their families living with and surviving cancer.”

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

The president and First Lady Jill Biden on Wednesday are also expected to issue a “call to action” on cancer screening and early detection, in an effort to ensure that Americans benefit from “the tools we have to prevent, detect and diagnose cancer.”

An administration official highlighted the importance of screenings, noting that 9.5 million Americans missed their screenings as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need to get back on track,” an official said, noting that they will help to ensure “equitable access to screening and prevention,” and will promote at-home screenings when possible.

The official added that the National Cancer Institute will organize their centers and networks, including the Community Oncology Research Network, to offer new access points to compensate for the millions of delayed cancer screenings.

The official also noted that federal agencies will develop a “focused program” in studying multi-cancer detection tests.

Meanwhile, as part of the administration-wide effort, the Department of Health and Human Services will “accelerate efforts to nearly eliminate cervical cancer” through screenings and the HPV vaccine.

“The president will call for an all-hands-on-deck approach,” the official said, noting he will call on the “private sector foundations, academic institutions, health care providers and all Americans to take on the mission of reducing the impacts of cancer and improving patient experiences.”

The White House noted that over the last 20 years, the age-adjusted death rate from cancer fell by approximately 25 percent, meaning “more people are surviving cancer and living longer after being diagnosed with cancer”—a development that was enabled by “progress on multiple fronts.”

The White House pointed to treatments to target specific mutations; immunotherapies; cancer vaccines; and tools like low-dose CT scans and refined use of colonoscopies to help detect lung and colorectal cancers early.

Congress, in December 2016, passed the 21st Century Cures Act, which authorized $1.8 billion in funding for the Cancer Moonshot over seven years. The funding was appropriated each fiscal year, with $300 million in 2017, $300 million in 2018, $400 million in 2019, and $195 million for fiscal year 2020.

At the end of the Obama administration, Biden put out an executive summary highlighting the task force’s progress, which included establishing a National Institutes of Health public-private partnership for accelerating cancer therapies, making clinical research trials more accessible to cancer patients, studying types of technologies and therapies that could deliver more targeted doses of radiation to tumor cells, and more.

Meanwhile, in Biden’s first budget as president, the White House said he prioritized “strong funding for biomedical and health research with increased funding for the NHI and NCI, and full funding for the 21st Century Cures Act and the Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot Initiative.

The president lost his son, Beau Biden, to brain cancer in 2015.

The White House also noted that since taking office, Biden proposed the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health—with the goal of improving the U.S. government’s capabilities to speed research that can improve human health and improve the ability to prevent, detect and treat a range of diseases, including cancer.

The president also committed to a bilateral effort with the United Kingdom last year to “take on the challenges of cancer together.”


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