AUSTIN, Texas — Practically shouting for emphasis, former Vice President Joe Biden delivered an impassioned plea Sunday to “the techies” in the audience at the South by Southwest festival here to find a cure for cancer.

“You are the future,” Biden said in his first major speech on cancer since leaving the White House. “Many of you are developing technologies and innovations for purposes large and small that have nothing to do with cancer. But you can make a gigantic impact. Your ingenuity can have a profound impact on cancer.”

Biden devoted most of his address to the strides made in his “cancer moonshot,’’ which was launched early last year. He said his biggest accomplishment was breaking down “the silos’’ that had prevented government institutions, hospitals, companies, and research organizations from sharing information about cancer.


But a half hour into his speech, his upbeat message of hope turned into one of near frustration, as he reflected on the helplessness he felt when his son Beau Biden, the former Delaware attorney general, died of brain cancer in 2015. As vice president, he said, he had “the entire United States Air Force available” to him, but did not have in his power the ability for his son’s doctors at different hospitals to share basic medical information.

Determined to stay above the political fray in Washington, Biden did not mention President Trump and, in fact, sounded a hopeful note: “It is my hope that this new administration, once it gets organized — and I’m not being facetious — can be as committed and enthusiastic as we were” in taking on cancer. He added, “The only bipartisan thing left in America is the fight against cancer.”

That said, Biden is clearly moving his effort from the government arena and said he is organizing a nonprofit cancer initiative to “finish the work.” After he left office, he said, he was approached about such an initiative by prominent scientists including Eric Lander at M.I.T., who was co-chair of President Obama’s scientific advisory council. Lander himself has said it could be decades before cancer is cured.

At the time of President Nixon’s cancer initiative in 1970, Biden said, “we thought there was only one cancer.”

Biden said that “we now have powerful new technologies and tools like immunotherapies” that weren’t available only a a few years ago. He said, “These advances provide hope…at so many levels I’ve come to realize we’ve reached a new inflection point.”

But immunotherapy is still far from a cure-all. In a best-case scenario, Dr. Nathan Gay and Dr. Vinay Prasad recently calculated that less than 10 percent of people with cancer would benefit from immunotherapy.

In his appeal to the technology-focused audience here, Biden said, “you’d think that Facebook would have an algorithm,” so people could share more information on cancer. He challenged the audience to come up with the new technology.

“Perhaps most importantly,” he said, “we need to connect cancer patients and families and others with the same cancers. We can learn from each other, and share advice and encouragement and hope.”

Biden was introduced to a standing ovation by his wife, Jill, who said, “It is my pleasure to introduce my man of action — the man who always strives to make the seemingly impossible, possible.”

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  • Looking back on my 4 year ordeal with NHL, the frustration of not finding other seniors online to talk to about their experience with cancer that originated in a testicle was unbelievably frustrating. Doctors and patients must have immediate access to the medical records of all cancer patients to assist in treatment. A worldwide data base with no privacy restrictions could only help everyone involved in dealing with cancer.

  • matthew.Krummel@ucsf.ed

    Dear Dr Krummel :
    In reviewing you research activities I believe you may be interested in an approach which uses Biopsies to help cytotoxic T-cells identify which cells to kill

    I have been in contact with Stanford( Mark Davis ). He suggested that you may be able to help with our intention to use the work of Gerald Pollack PhD
    ( )
    AND Luc Montagnier. PhD Nobel Laureate.

    and other research about nuclear cell wall Eclusion Zone water(Ez water) making DNA sequence replicas that we hope could be activated by cytotoxic T- Cells providing ELF waves to trigger DNA sequence electronic ELF signals to compare with recorded Biopsy nuclear cell DNA sequence ending in apoptosis

    as a cure for any cancer with a recordable biopsy.

    However, we need to know the exact procedure a cytotoxic T- cell encounters when testing any cell for Antigen Presentation . Might you be able to advise us in any way. would you like to participate?

    Gerard Scally,

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