Biden unveils road map for his ‘moonshot’ against cancer

WASHINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden pledged on Tuesday night to work to increase resources for cancer research and improve coordination across the research community as part of his cancer “moonshot” that President Obama endorsed in his State of the Union address.

Breaking down “silos” will be a primary focus, Biden said in a post on Medium.

“The Federal government will do everything it possibly can —  through funding, targeted incentives, and increased private-sector coordination  —  to support research and enable progress,” he wrote.

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Biden said he and his team will work to reach “unprecedented levels of cooperation” among the nation’s leading cancer centers and encourage technology companies to facilitate the sharing of medical data.

The vice president said he will go to the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine on Friday for a meeting with researchers there, and will hold another meeting on the issue next week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

He also plans to lead a meeting with members of Obama’s cabinet and other top federal officials later this month, the first in a series of such meetings.

“The science is ready,” Biden wrote in the post. “Several cutting-edge areas of research and care  —  including cancer immunotherapy, genomics, and combination therapies  — could be revolutionary. Innovations in data and technology offer the promise to speed research advances and improve care delivery.”

Alex Hogan/STAT Presidents have been promising to cure cancer for 45 years, but cancer is still very much with us.

“But the science, data, and research results are trapped in silos, preventing faster progress and greater reach to patients,” Biden wrote. “It’s not just about developing game-changing treatments  —  it’s about delivering them to those who need them.”

Obama endorsed Biden’s “moonshot” in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

“I’m putting Joe in charge of Mission Control,” Obama said. “For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the family we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.”

Biden’s moonshot began in October when, in announcing that he would not run for president, he called for “an absolute national commitment to end cancer as we know it today.” He emphasized how personal the issue was to him, after his eldest son Beau died in May of brain cancer at age 46.

In the months since, Biden has been working, but largely out of the public eye. He worked behind the scenes to help secure a boost for cancer research funding in the government spending bill passed by Congress in December. His aides said that he and his staff have held dozens of meetings to solicit input on what to do. Biden said in his Medium post Tuesday that he had meet with nearly 200 people over the last few months to discuss the issue.

Cancer researchers who met with Biden aides last week told STAT that the staff had seemed focused on finding something concrete they could do during Biden’s last year in office. Ideas that have been floated include a national clinical data-sharing initiative and a bigger federal investment in gene sequencing.

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