President Joe Biden on Wednesday relaunched the White House’s “Cancer Moonshot” initiative, committing the nation to working toward reducing the death rate from cancer by at least 50% over the next 25 years.
“We can do this. I promise you, we can do this. For all those we lost, for all those we miss. We can end cancer as we know it,” Biden said in remarks at the White House.
The President pledged to bring a “fierce sense of urgency” to the fight against cancer and better support cancer patients and their families.
Biden named Dr. Danielle Carnival, who serves in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, as the White House Cancer Moonshot coordinator. The President also announced the formation of a “Cancer Cabinet,” with representatives from the Departments of Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, Defense, Energy and Agriculture, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute and others across the executive branch.
Both the President and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke about losing loved ones to cancer.
In 2015, Beau Biden, the President’s eldest son and a former Delaware attorney general, died at age 46 after battling brain cancer.
Dr. Alfred Yung of Texas’ MD Anderson Cancer Center, who had treated Beau Biden, was also at the White House event.
“That’s the man who spent 18 months trying to save our son’s life. Doctor, I love you,” the President said as he pointed Yung out in the crowd.
Harris spoke about losing her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, to colon cancer in 2009. Gopalan was a breast cancer researcher.
“After a lifetime working to end cancer, cancer ended my mother’s life. I will never forget the day that she sat my sister and me down and told us she had been diagnosed with colon cancer. It was one of the worst days of my life,” Harris said at the White House event.
“I miss my mother every day,” Harris said. “And I carry her memory with me wherever I go. When President Biden launched his Cancer Moonshot five years ago, I of course thought of my mother.”
Biden called on Congress to fund his proposal to create the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), a new program aimed at driving innovation in health research that will focus initially on diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s.
The President said Americans missed more than 9 million cancer screenings in the past two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic. He urged anyone who missed their screening to call their doctor as soon as possible to get one scheduled.
Biden initially helmed the initiative when he was serving in the Obama administration as vice president. It is aimed at accelerating the nation’s rate of progress in the fight against cancer.
Wednesday’s relaunch of the program does not include any new funding. In December 2016, Congress authorized $1.8 billion to fund the Cancer Moonshot over a seven-year period, with $400 million in funding still authorized for 2022 and 2023.
In a presidential memorandum in 2016, then-President Barack Obama tasked Biden with leading the White House Task Force aimed at curing cancer. At the time, Biden pledged that though he was “not naïve about the challenges ahead, he had “never been more optimistic that we can do big things.”
“I know we can do this. I truly believe it,” Biden wrote at the time. “And I want you to know that I’ll be focusing the rest of the time I have in office – and the rest of my life– on this effort.”
In addition, the White House will host a Cancer Moonshot Summit, “bringing together agency leadership, patient organizations, biopharmaceutical companies, the research, public health, and healthcare communities and more to highlight innovation, progress, and new commitments toward ending cancer as we know it,” and launch a website where American can track the progress of the initiative’s mission.
A senior administration official told reporters on a call Tuesday previewing the President’s announcement that success over the first five years of the program allowed the administration to set “really ambitious goals” moving forward.
The official also cited medical advances achieved in the fight against Covid-19, including research into mRNA vaccines, as areas rich in potential for fighting cancer.