Biden hopes ending cancer could become ‘national cause’ for US

BOSTON (AP) – President Joe Biden on Monday called on Americans to unite for a new “national cause” — this administration’s effort to end cancer “as we know it.”

At the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Biden delivered JFK’s famous speech 60 years ago, likening the space race to his own endeavor and hoping it would make Americans, too. excited.

“He established a national purpose that would bring together the American people and for a common goal,” Biden said of Kennedy’s space effort, adding that “we can open up to the same idea.” I don’t even want to delay.”

Biden hopes to bring America closer to the goal he set in February of cutting US cancer deaths by 50% over the next 25 years and dramatically improving lives. carer and people with cancer. Experts say this goal is achievable – with the right investments.

The President calls his goal development treatments and therapies for cancer “Bold, ambitious and I might add, totally doable.”

In his speech, Biden called on the private sector to make drugs more affordable and data available more often. He made medical advances possible with focused research, funding, and data.

And he talked about a new federally-backed study looking for evidence for use blood tests to screen for multiple cancers – a potential game changer in diagnostic testing to dramatically improve the early detection of cancers.

Danielle Carnival, the White House coordinator for the effort, told The Associated Press that the administration sees great potential in starting blood diagnostic studies to identify cancer.

“One of the most promising technologies is the development of blood tests that promise to detect multiple cancers in a single blood test and really visualize the possible impact on cancer detection. mail early and in our fairer way,” Carnival said. “We think the best way to get us where those things are is to really test the technologies that we have today and see what works and what really has an impact. to longevity.”

In the year 2022, American Cancer Society It is estimated that 1.9 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed and 609,360 people will die from the cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks cancer as the second highest killer in the US after heart disease.

The issue is personal to Biden, who lost his adult son Beau 2015 to brain cancer. After Beau’s death, Congress passed 21st Century Healing Actspent $1.8 billion over seven years on cancer research and was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2016.

Obama appointed Biden, then vice president, to run the “mission control” of directing cancer funds as a recognition of Biden’s grief as a parent and his desire to do just that. something about it. Biden wrote in his memoir “Promise Me, Dad” that he chose not to run for president in 2016 primarily because of Beau’s death.

Despite Biden’s efforts to back Kennedy and his space program, the current initiative lacks a similar level of budget support. The Apollo program has attracted massive public investment – ​​more than $20 billion, or more than $220 billion in inflation-adjusted 2022. Biden’s efforts are much more modest and dependent on private sector investment.

Still, he managed to keep the momentum going for investments in public health research, including winning a championship for the Health Advanced Research Projects Agency, modeled on the Similar research and development initiatives benefit the Pentagon and the intelligence community.

On Monday, Biden announced Dr. Renee Wegrzyn as the first director of ARPA-H, which has been tasked with researching potential treatments and cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s, Diabetes and other diseases. He also announced a new National Cancer Institute Scholars Program to provide funding for scientists to initially research treatments and cures for cancer, focusing on groups that are not. represented and people from diverse backgrounds.

The President was attended by Caroline Kennedy, daughter of JFK, who is currently the US ambassador to Australia. He reiterated his administration’s efforts the following Monday at a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee.

Experts agree that it is too early to say whether these new blood tests for cancer in healthy people have any effect on cancer deaths. There are no studies to show that they reduce the risk of dying from cancer. However, they say it’s important to set an ambitious goal.

Carnival said National Cancer Institute The study is designed so that any promising diagnostic results can quickly be put into widespread practice while longer-term research — expected to last up to a decade — is progressing. The goal, she said, is to move closer to a future where cancer can be detected through routine blood testing, potentially reducing the need for more invasive and burdensome procedures such as colonoscopy. end, and can therefore save lives.

Scientists now understand that cancer is not a single disease, but hundreds of diseases that respond differently to different treatments. Some cancers have biomarkers that can be targeted by existing drugs that would slow tumor growth. Many other targets are waiting to be discovered.

“How do we know which treatments are effective for which subtypes? That, to me, is the ocean, says Donald A. Berry, a biostatistician at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. “The possibility is huge. The challenges are huge. “

Despite the challenges, he’s optimistic about cutting cancer mortality in half over the next 25 years.

“We can achieve that 50% goal by slowing progression across different types of cancer without curing anyone,” Berry said. “If I were to bet on whether we would hit this 50% reduction, I bet yes.”

Dr. Crystal Denlinger, scientific director of National Comprehensive Cancer Networka group of elite cancer centers.

And any effort to reduce cancer mortality will need to focus on the biggest cancer killer, lung cancer. Primarily caused by smoking, lung cancer now causes more deaths than any other cancer. Of the 1,670 daily cancer deaths in the United States, more than 350 are from lung cancer.

Lung cancer screening are helping. The American Cancer Society says such screening has resulted in a 32 percent reduction in cancer death rates from a peak in 1991 to 2019, the most recent year for which this figure is available.

But only 5% of patients are eligible for lung cancer screening.

In his speech, Biden highlighted provisions in the Democrats’ health care and climate change bill that the administration believes would lower out-of-pocket prices for certain cancer treatments. widely used. And he praised the new guarantees for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits, including their potential cancer diagnoses.

Michael Hassett’s Dr Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, said Biden’s goal of reducing cancer deaths could be met by following two parallel paths: one is discovery and the other is to make sure as many people as possible are taking advantage. of currently available therapies and prevention methods.

“If we can tackle both sides, both challenges, great strides are possible,” Hassett said.


Johnson reports from Seattle.

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