Biden reignites ‘cancer moonshot’ effort

The cause is personal for the president, whose son Beau died of brain cancer in 2015

President Joe Biden said throughout his 2020 campaign that he would reignite the cancer moonshot program.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
President Joe Biden said throughout his 2020 campaign that he would reignite the cancer moonshot program. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted February 2, 2022 at 5:00am

President Joe Biden plans to publicize and relaunch his so-called cancer moonshot effort on Wednesday with the goal of stamping out one of the leading causes of death worldwide.

The White House, underscoring that this is a presidential priority, will designate officials to focus on efforts to treat and prevent cancers. But the administration said it will not lay out any new funding announcements for the initiative. A senior administration official told reporters Tuesday night that the cancer moonshot is a bipartisan effort, and he is confident robust future funding will be available.

The effort has three main goals: cutting the age-adjusted death rate from cancer by 2025, increasing access to cancer screening and improving the experience of people living with cancer and their families.

As vice president in 2016, Biden led the original launch of the cancer moonshot project with the goal of reducing cancer and accelerating treatments. Biden hopes some of the proposed research will be done conducted via his previously proposed agency, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, senior administration officials said. ARPA-H would be housed within the National Institutes of Health and tackle medical breakthroughs for diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, though it hasn't yet received congressional funding.

Throughout his 2020 campaign, Biden said he would reignite the cancer moonshot program. The cause is personal for the president — his son Beau died of brain cancer in 2015.

“A lot has changed that has made it possible to set really ambitious goals right now,” a senior administration official told reporters, noting that the pandemic has not only put science in the forefront but highlighted health care disparities.

Roughly 9.5 million Americans missed cancer screenings during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the president and first lady Jill Biden will call for more cancer screenings.

Federal agencies, led by the National Cancer Institute, are expected to develop a program to evaluate and study multicancer detection tests, similar to COVID-19 diagnostic tools.

The administration will establish a White House Cancer Moonshot coordinator position in the Executive Office of the President and form a White House Cancer Cabinet, bringing together officials from multiple agencies.