Local Commentary

Editorial: Joe Biden’s New War on Cancer

A poignant and historically important moment in Tuesday night’s State of the Union address by President Barack Obama came when he injected the following into his remarks:

“Last year, Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer. Last month, he worked with this Congress to give scientists at the National Institutes of Health the strongest resources that they’ve had in over a decade. So tonight, I’m announcing a new national effort to get it done. And because he’s gone to the mat for us all on so many issues over the past 40 years, I’m putting Joe in charge of Mission Control. For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the families that we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.”

The president had hardly stepped down from the podium Tuesday night when a memorandum was released from the Office of the Vice President at the White House entitled, “Inspiring a New Generation to Defy the Bounds of Innovation: A Moonshot to Cure Cancer.” It was a statement by Biden and he said that, in being so tasked, “It was personal for me. But it’s also personal for nearly every American, and millions of people around the world. We all know someone who has had cancer, or is fighting to beat it. They’re our family, friends, co-workers.”

He added, “Today, cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide. And that’s only expected to increase in the coming decades – unless we make more progress today. I know we can. From my own personal experience, I’ve learned that research and therapies are on the cusp of incredible breakthroughs. Just in the past four years, we’ve seen amazing advancements. And this is an inflection point.”

Biden noted, “Several cutting-edge areas of research and care – including cancer immunotherapy, genomics, and combination therapies – could be revolutionary…. But the science, data and research results are trapped in silos, preventing faster progress and greater reach to patients.” So, he said, he plans to do two things, “Increase resources, both private and public, to fight cancer,” and “Break down silos and bring all the cancer fighters together – to work together, share information, and end cancer as we know it. And the goal of this initiative is simple, to double the rate of progress, to make a decade worth of advances in five years.”

He spelled out his immediate and intermediate steps.

“This is our moonshot,” he concluded, “I know that we can help solidify a genuine global commitment to end cancer as we know it today, and inspire a new generation of scientists to pursue new discoveries and the bounds of human endeavor.”

Much progress has been made over the years. But here’s to Joe Biden to take this new challenge to see some truly revolutionary advances through to a comprehensive cure.