Aggregating and sharing the data of millions of patients has the potential to successfully treat cancer as has never been done before, Vice President Joe Biden said during the launch of the National Cancer Moonshot Summit last week.
It’s now time, Biden said from the podium at Howard University in Washington, D.C., to change the course of what he called a “godawful problem.”
“Unlike other diseases, there are over 200 distinct types of cancer we’ve identified, which makes cancer a far more complicated disease to treat and understand,” Biden said, adding that 14 million new cases are diagnosed per year in the world, claiming more than 8 million lives.
“It’s projected by 2025 that there will be 20 million new (worldwide) cases a year and more than 14 million deaths if we stay the course we’re on,” Biden said.
In the United States, the disease kills approximately 600,000 people a year, according to various federal reports.
Hence, the White House’s “moonshot” is aimed at more quickly increasing both funding for cancer research and the sharing of early trial research. The initiative, announced by President Obama during his State of the Union speech earlier this year, also aims to give researchers quicker access to investigational drugs, while laying out a plan to revamp cancer.gov in order to make it easier for patients and the medical community to search for potential clinical trials to join.
“As advanced as we are, the idea that we can’t come up with an app that has all of this data on it is surprising to me,” Biden said.
More than 260 regional summit sites across the U.S. simultaneously held day-long meetings in conjunction with Biden’s efforts in the nation’s capitol to bring together hundreds of patients, health care experts, physicians, scientists, researchers, corporations, foundations, advocates, academia and others to garner support for the White House’s year-long initiative to advance cancer research and speed up progress over the next five years.
“Think about what that will mean," Biden said. "These are real, real, real life things; time matters. Days matter. Minutes matter. There’s nothing antiseptic about this – you all know the problems."
Biden's son Beau died from brain cancer in 2015.
But the initiative isn’t about his son, the vice president said. It’s about changing the world, as well as changing the current culture that turns scientists into grant writers, for instance, and making research readily, quickly available as soon as it’s published, he said.
“We have to improve progress and enhance patient care,” as well, Biden said. “It’s not anybody’s fault, but we gotta fix it. We owe it to future generations.”
The summit and related regional meetings around the country come at a critical juncture. With the current administration’s last term almost over, the bipartisan backing of the initiative has stalled along partisan lines as both the Democrats and Republicans fight over funding for it in Congress.
Meanwhile, federal officials also are currently in a mad dash to develop recommendations on how to hasten research gains, but their proposals aren’t expected to be released until the fall.