Obama administration wants $1 billion to jumpstart Joe Biden’s cancer ‘moonshot’
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WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is aiming to spend $1 billion to jumpstart the cancer moonshot being led by Vice President Joe Biden, senior administration officials said Monday.

Some of that money has already been appropriated in the federal spending bill that President Barack Obama signed in December, the officials told reporters on a conference call. Nearly $200 million in new funding from the omnibus bill, directed to the National Institutes of Health, will be spent on new cancer initiatives, they said.

In his final budget proposal, to be released Feb. 9, Obama will then request another $755 million for the next fiscal year to pursue a multi-year moonshot initiative, officials said. The vast majority would go toward the NIH, while $75 million would be earmarked for data work at the Food and Drug Administration.

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There will also be increased spending on cancer programs at the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, which will boost longitudinal research into risks factors for cancer and new treatments.

The overall goal being set by the administration, officials said, is to achieve a decade’s worth of advances in five years. The officials declined to be specific about how that progress would be measured, saying more information would be given in the coming weeks.

“We believe that starting the moonshot now will allow us to capitalize on recent great strides in the cancer research area,” one official said.

For the current fiscal year, the National Cancer Institute has a $5.2 billion budget, while NIH as a whole has a $32 billion budget. Both saw significant increases in the spending bill signed by Obama in December.

Congress must approve the president’s funding request before the money could actually be spent. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama will make his pitch for the funding at a meeting Tuesday with House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

As part of this funding “jumpstart,” Obama will also request a new funding stream, called the Exceptional Opportunities in Cancer Research Fund, which will direct money to “out-of-the-box” research that previously struggled to receive federal grants. The administration officials declined to be more specific about what kind of research would be the target of that funding, saying more information would be available soon.

The National Cancer Moonshot, as the White House has begun to call it, will focus on six areas, according to administration officials: early-detection technology, cancer vaccines, immunotherapy, genomic analysis of tumors, enhanced data sharing, and pediatric cancer.

The funding announcement comes the same day that Biden will convene a meeting of his new federal cancer task force created. Obama will be at the meeting, and top officials from the Department of Health and Human Services, Defense Department, VA, NIH, and FDA are expected to be in attendance.

Along with its research and data goals, the task force will focus on trying to expand access to clinical trials, which only 5 percent of cancer patients currently participate in, one official said.

Biden has said that the cancer task force would allow him to use “every federal agency at my disposal” in the moonshot. He has pledged to figure out ways to make the federal government “partners, not impediments” in progressing toward breakthrough treatments.

The task force’s first meeting, which is closed to the public, will be held in the vice president’s office. Leading up to that launch, Biden has met with upwards of 200 cancer researchers and advocates since October, according to his aides.

Biden urged a “national commitment to end cancer” when he announced in the fall that he would not run for president. Obama endorsed the moonshot in his State of the Union address last month and placed Biden in charge of it.

Sheila Kaplan contributed to this report.

This story has been updated with comments from White House press secretary Josh Earnest.

Alex Hogan/STAT

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

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