Healthcare

Biden reignites ‘cancer moonshot’ with focus on early diagnosis, prevention

President Biden on Wednesday will reignite the “cancer moonshot” project with a focus on reducing the death rate by 50 percent in 25 years. 

“A lot has changed that makes it possible to set really ambitious goals right now,” a senior administration official said about why Biden is relaunching the project, adding that it is “very personal” for the president.

Biden’s son, Beau, died of glioblastoma, an aggressive type of brain cancer, in 2015 at the age of 46.

The official also noted that it is personal for Harris, whose mother was a breast cancer researcher and died of colon cancer in 2009. 

The administration’s goals include diagnosing cancer sooner by increasing access to ways to screen for cancer with a focus on equity and addressing inequities across race and region.

Biden will issue an official call to action on cancer screening and early detection, which will involve working to ensure equitable access through at-home screening, mobile screening in communities and community health networks like those built during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need to get back on track after more than 9.5 million missed cancer screenings in the United States as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the official said.

Another goal is to prevent cancer by looking at technology used to make COVID-19 vaccines and addressing environmental exposures to cancer, including by cleaning up polluted sites and delivering clean water to American homes through funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Additionally, the administration aims to target the right treatments to the right patients, speed progress against the most deadly cancers, including childhood cancer, and increase support for patients, caregivers and survivors.

The president will name a “cancer Cabinet” that includes representatives from the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, Food and Drug Administration, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among other agencies. 

The cancer moonshot received $1.8 billion over seven years in funding through the 21st Century Cares Act, which Congress passed in 2016. About $400 million of that funding is left.

Officials said they expect Congress to approve funding for the program going forward.

“I am very confident that there will be robust funding going forward because I’ve got to say, in these times of disagreements, there is certainly one thing on which we all agree on across party, across everything, which is the effect of cancer on their lives. I know nothing that ignites us more and is more bipartisan,” the official said.

Biden has talked about ending cancer throughout his campaign and presidency. The Biden Cancer Initiative launched in 2017 as a vehicle to bring together researchers and share data, but the initiative suspended operations after Biden announced his White House bid in 2019.

Last March, Biden convened a group of bipartisan lawmakers at the White House to discuss investments in cancer research and treatment.

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