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Biden to push Congress for more funding for ‘cancer moonshot’

The seven years of funding for the initiative, $1.8 billion as authorized through the 21st Century Cures Act, runs out this September

President Joe Biden, pictured here at a Cancer Moonshot event in Boston last September, will call on Congress to renew funding for the initiative during Tuesday night’s State of the Union address.
President Joe Biden, pictured here at a Cancer Moonshot event in Boston last September, will call on Congress to renew funding for the initiative during Tuesday night’s State of the Union address. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images file photo)

President Joe Biden made “ending cancer as we know it” one of his top goals as president, and with two years left in his term will use his State of the Union address to call on Congress to act.

The seven years of funding for the “cancer moonshot,” $1.8 billion as authorized through the 21st Century Cures Act, runs out this September. Biden will call on Congress to renew funding.

Biden will also ask lawmakers to reauthorize the National Cancer Act of 1971, the law that created the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health. An update could modernize America’s cancer detection and treatment systems. This would include more clinical trial networks that reach more communities and modern data systems that could share knowledge and make progress faster, among other things.

“We think it’s time for another bipartisan effort to come together and realize a 21st century cancer system,” Danielle Carnival, the White House Cancer Moonshot coordinator, told reporters Tuesday.

The administration anticipates both efforts will be bipartisan.

For Biden, the fight against cancer is extremely personal. His son Beau died of brain cancer in 2015, and it’s possible Beau’s cancer was tied to his military service in Afghanistan near a toxic burn pit. The Cancer Moonshot aims to cut U.S. cancer death rates in half in 25 years, and over the past year, the administration announced roughly 30 new federal programs and resources to increase cancer screenings, advance research and help drive innovation.

During his first State of the Union address, Biden called on Congress to fund the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health or ARPA-H, as part of the moonshot program. Congress has thus far provided ARPA-H with $2.5 billion, far less than the $6.5 billion the White House requested in the 2022 budget proposal.

There are also a few steps the Biden administration can take without Congress’ help.

The administration plans to take steps to reduce smoking, which is one of the largest contributors to cancer deaths. Administration officials declined to comment on specifics ahead of the speech, but the administration has taken several steps recently to reduce harm from tobacco, such as banning menthol and flavored cigarettes and proposing to limit nicotine in cigarettes.

Biden will also pledge to ensure patient navigation systems are covered benefits going forward. These services help guide individuals, caregivers and families through cancer screening, diagnosis, treatment and survivorship.

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