WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden on Wednesday (Feb 2) announced plans to reduce the death rate from cancer by at least 50 per cent over the next 25 years, part of an effort to revive the “Cancer Moonshot” initiative to speed research and make more treatments available.
The program, an Obama administration initiative led by Biden when he was vice president, also aims to improve cancer detection and prevention. Biden’s son Beau died of brain cancer in 2015 at age 46, something the president has said helps inform his and first lady Jill Biden’s passion for the project.
“I committed to this fight when I was vice president … let there be no doubt, now that I’m president, this is a presidential White House priority,” he said.
Biden said there are 200 different kinds of cancer caused by genetic mutations and the disease is still the “number two” cause of death in America, after heart disease. He also drew a contrast with COVID-19 saying that as the disease claimed over 800,000 American lives, over the same period 1.2 million Americans have lost their lives to cancer.
Biden’s new effort will install a White House coordinator, form a cancer cabinet that will bring government departments and agencies together and revive access to cancer screenings. It will also see the White House hosting a summit to bring together stakeholders, launch a website and build on a cancer roundtable conversation series under way over the past six months, the White House said.
After the initiative launched in 2016, researchers said it would take a major shift in the way cancer research is done in the United States to meet the goals of the program.
“A lot has changed that makes it possible to set really ambitious goals right now,” a senior administration official said.
The official said a “decade’s worth of research advances” occurred in the past five years. He cited examples of scientific advances such as preventative annual blood tests that screen for cancer.
Jill Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris also attended the event. Harris’s mother, Shyamala Gopalan, died of colon cancer in 2009.