President Biden Reignites Cancer Moonshot
As Vice President, in 2016, Joe Biden launched the Cancer Moonshot with the mission to accelerate the rate of progress against cancer. The cancer and patient community and medical researchers responded with tremendous energy and ingenuity.
President Biden is reigniting the Cancer Moonshot with renewed White House leadership of this effort. Because of recent progress in cancer therapeutics, diagnostics, and patient-driven care, as well as the scientific advances and public health lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s now possible to set ambitious goals: to reduce the death rate from cancer by at least 50 percent over the next 25 years, and improve the experience of people and their families living with and surviving cancer— and, by doing this and more, end cancer as we know it today.
The President and First Lady Jill Biden are also announcing a call to action on cancer screening to jumpstart progress on screenings that were missed as a result of the pandemic, and help ensure that everyone in the United States equitably benefits from the tools we have to prevent, detect, and diagnose cancer.
Building on a Quarter Century of Bipartisan Support, Public Health Progress, and Scientific Advances
Over the first 20 years of this century, the age-adjusted death rate from cancer has fallen by about 25 percent, which means more people are surviving cancer and living longer after being diagnosed with cancer. That was enabled by progress on multiple fronts.
- Science brought us treatments that target specific mutations in many types of cancer –for example, in certain types of lung cancer, leukemia, and skin cancers.
- It has also provided therapies that use our immune system to detect and kill cancer cells and these immunotherapies are making a big difference in certain skin cancers, blood cancers, and others.
- We also have cancer vaccines – like the HPV vaccine –which prevents the cause of up to seven kinds of cancer.
- We developed tools, like low-dose CT scans and refined use of colonoscopies, which help us detect lung cancer and colorectal cancers early when there are better treatment options.
- Starting in the early 1990s, we also made progress against tobacco use through targeted public health education campaigns as well as new, more effective approaches to smoking cessation. We have seen a 50 percent decrease in adult long-term cigarette smoking and a 68 percent drop in smoking rates among youth.
Five years ago, with the bipartisan passage and enactment of the 21st Century Cures Act, Congress invested $1.8 billion, providing seven years of new funding for cancer research in many areas including studies on cancer disparities, new clinical trial networks to drive drug discovery, and innovative projects examining childhood cancer. The law streamlined cancer-related decision-making at the FDA through the formation of an Oncology Center of Excellence, so that effective treatments can be approved faster and patients can have more direct access to information about the regulatory process.
First Lady Jill Biden’s advocacy for cancer education and prevention began in 1993, when four of her friends were diagnosed with breast cancer. Following that year, she launched the Biden Breast Health Initiative to educate Delaware high school girls about the importance of cancer prevention. As First Lady she continues her work emphasizing early detection efforts and the patient, family and caregiver experience with cancer. She will also stress the importance of cancer screenings, especially those delayed or put off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will urge government partners, the business community, and non-profit sectors to help make screenings more accessible and available to all.
At the White House, then-Vice President Biden brought together a task force and challenged the public and private sectors to join together in making progress. Companies, patient groups, universities, and foundations worked together to forge new partnerships and launch new programs.
The Biden-Harris Administration Has Maintained This Commitment
In the President’s first budget, he sustained strong funding for biomedical and health research with increased funding for the NIH and NCI, and full funding for the21st Century Cures Act and the Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot Initiative at the NCI.
President Biden proposed a bold new vision for biomedical and health research in the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H). The goal of this entity is to improve the U.S. government’s capabilities to speed research that can improve human health — to improve our ability to prevent, detect, and treat a range of diseases including cancer, infectious diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, and many others. ARPA-H funding has already been included in appropriation and authorization bills pending in Congress.
President Biden committed toa bilateral effort with the United Kingdom to take on the challenges of cancer together. This has already resulted in a November 2021 US-UK Cancer Scientific Meeting of leadership, patient advocates, and oncology research experts which produced recommendations for how the two nations can work in partnership to make even more urgent progress on cancer.
The Biden-Harris Administration has also prioritized strengthening health care for the American people by lowering health care costs and expanding coverage. The President’s health care agenda is the biggest expansion of affordable health care in a decade, and includes cutting prescription drug costs by letting Medicare negotiate prices; strengthening the Affordable Care Act and reducing premiums for 9 million Americans; improving Medicare benefits by capping out-of-pocket costs on drugs, including cancer drugs, purchased at a pharmacy; and covering millions of uninsured Americans in states that have failed to expand Medicaid.
New Goals for the Cancer Moonshot
Based on the progress made and the possibility before us, President Biden today set new national goals for the Cancer Moonshot:
- Working together over the next 25 years, we will cut today’s age-adjusted death rate from cancer by at least 50 percent.
- We will improve the experience of people and their families living with and surviving cancer.
Taken together, these actions will drive us toward ending cancer as we know it today.
There’s so much that can be done.
- To diagnose cancer sooner — Today, we know cancer as a disease we often diagnose too late. We must increase access to existing ways to screen for cancer, and support patients through the process of diagnosis. We can also greatly expand the cancers we can screen for. Five years ago, detecting many cancers at once through blood tests was a dream. Now new technologies and rigorous clinical trials could put this within our reach. Detecting and diagnosing cancers earlier means there may be more effective treatment options.
- To prevent cancer — Today, we know cancer as a disease we have few good ways to prevent. But now, scientists are asking if mRNA technology, used in the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines to teach your body to fight off the virus, could be used to stop cancer cells when they first appear. And we know we can address environmental exposures to cancer, including by cleaning up polluted sites and delivering clean water to American homes, for example, through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
- To address inequities — Today, we know cancer as a disease for which there are stark inequities in access to cancer screening, diagnostics and treatment across race, gender, region, and resources. We can ensure that every community in America – rural, urban, Tribal, and everywhere else – has access to cutting-edge cancer diagnostics, therapeutics, and clinical trials.
- To target the right treatments to the right patients — Today, we know cancer as a disease for which we understand too little about why treatments work for some patients, but not for others. We are learning more about how to use information about genetics, immune responses, and other factors to tell which combinations of treatments are likely to work best in an individual patient.
- To speed progress against the most deadly and rare cancers, including childhood cancers — Today, we know cancer as a disease for which we lack good strategies for developing treatments against many of the more than 200 distinct types. We can invest in a robust pipeline for new treatments, and the COVID-19 pandemic response has demonstrated we can accelerate clinical trials without compromising safety and effectiveness.
- To support patients, caregivers, and survivors — Today, we know cancer as a disease in which we do not do enough to help people and families navigate cancer and its aftermath. We can help people overcome the medical, financial, and emotional burdens that cancer brings by providing support to navigate cancer diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship.
- To learn from all patients — Today, we know cancer as a disease in which we don’t learn from the experiences of most patients. We can turn our cancer care system into a learning system. When asked, most people with cancer are glad to make their data available for research to help future patients, if it can be done easily while respecting their privacy. Additionally, the diverse personal experiences of patients and their families make their input essential in developing approaches to end cancer as we know it.
Mobilizing the Entire Government
Under the Biden-Harris Administration, the Cancer Moonshot will specifically:
- Re-establish White House Leadership, with a White House Cancer Moonshot coordinator in the Executive Office of the President, to demonstrate the President and First Lady’s personal commitment to making progress and to leverage the whole-of-government approach and national response that the challenge of cancer demands.
- Form a Cancer Cabinet, which will be convened by the White House, bringing together departments and agencies across government to address cancer on multiple fronts. These include the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Agriculture (USDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Cancer Institute (NCI), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), Domestic Policy Council (DPC), Gender Policy Council (GPC), Office of the First Lady (OFL), Office of the Vice President (OVP), Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Office of Legislative Affairs (OLA), Office of Public Engagement (OPE), along with additional members, as needed, to help establish and make progress on Cancer Moonshot goals.
- Issue a Call to Action on Cancer Screening and Early Detection:
- To deliver the message of urgency and increased access to get back on track after more than 9.5 million missed cancer screenings in the United States as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With regular recommended screenings, we can often catch cancer when there may be more effective treatment options or even prevent it from developing by removing pre-cancerous tissue.
- To help ensure equitable access to screening and prevention through at-home screening (especially for colon cancer and HPV, the virus that causes cervical, head, neck and other cancers), mobile screening in communities without easy access to a clinic, through the community health networks we have built and strengthened during the COVID-19 pandemic, and other ways to reduce barriers to cancer screening.
- NCI will organize the collective efforts of the NCI cancer centers, and other networks such as the NCI Community Oncology Research Network (NCORP), to offer new access points to compensate for millions of delayed cancer screenings due to the pandemic, with a focus on reaching those individuals most at risk.
- Federal agencies, led by the NCI, will develop a focused program to expeditiously study and evaluate multicancer detection tests, like we did for COVID-19 diagnostics, which could help detect cancers when there may be more effective treatment options.
- The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) commits to accelerating efforts to nearly eliminate cervical cancer through screening and HPV vaccination, with a particular focus on reaching people who are most at risk.
- The President’s Cancer panel this week released a report “Closing Gaps in Cancer Screening” laying out recommendations focused on connecting people, communities, and systems to increase equity and access.
- Host a White House 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.
- Build on a White House Cancer Roundtable Conversation Series hosted over the last six months, with experts, including people living with cancer, caregivers, and survivors. These discussions focused on cancer prevention, early detection, clinical trial design and access, patient support and navigation, childhood cancer, learning from all patients and issues relating to equity in access and outcomes. Going forward, this will include discussions on additional topics and the knowledge gained will continue to inform this whole-of-government approach on cancer.
- Require an All-Hands-On-Deck Approach. President Biden calls on the private sector, foundations, academic institutions, healthcare providers, and all Americans to take on the mission of reducing the deadly impact of cancer and improving patient experiences in the diagnosis, treatment, and survival of cancer. Progress will be informed by people living with cancer, caregivers, and families and contributed by all parts of the oncology community and beyond. We invite all Americans to share perspectives and ideas, and organizations, companies, and institutions to share actions they plan to take as part of this mission at whitehouse.gov/cancermoonshot.