Biden hopes that ending cancer can be a “national purpose” for the US.

BOSTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Monday he urged Americans to come together for a new “national purpose” — his administration’s effort to end cancer “as we know it.”

At the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Biden channeled JFK’s famous moon speech 60 years ago, comparing the space race to his own endeavor and hoping it would galvanize Americans, too.

“It established a national purpose that could unite the American people and a common cause,” Biden said of Kennedy’s space effort, adding that “we may usher in the same unwillingness to postpone.”

Biden hopes to move the US closer to the goal he set in February of reducing US cancer deaths by 50% over the next 25 years and dramatically improving the lives of cancer sufferers and caregivers. Experts say that the goal is achievable, with adequate investments.

The president called his goal to develop cancer treatments and therapies “bold, ambitious, and, might I add, completely doable.”

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

And he spoke of a new study backed by the federal government that seeks evidence of using blood tests to detect multiple types of cancer: a potential game-changer in diagnostic tests to dramatically improve early detection of cancers.

Danielle Carnival, White House coordinator of the initiative, told The Associated Press that the administration sees enormous potential in the start of blood diagnostic study in identifying cancers.

“One of the most promising technologies has been the development of blood tests that offer the promise of detecting multiple cancers in a single blood test and really imagining the impact that could have on our ability to detect cancer earlier and more equitably. ”. Carnival said. “We think the best way to get to where they are is to really test the technologies that we have today and see what works and what has a real impact on life extension.”

In 2022, the American Cancer Society According to estimates, 1.9 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed and 609,360 people will die of cancerous diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks cancer as the second leading cause of death for people in the US after heart disease.

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The issue is personal to Biden, who lost her adult son Beau in 2015 to brain cancer. After Beau’s death, Congress passed the Law of Cures of the 21st Centurywhich dedicated $1.8 billion over seven years to cancer research and was signed into law in 2016 by President Barack Obama.

Obama appointed Biden, then vice president, to run “mission control” on directing cancer funding in recognition of Biden’s pain as a father and a desire to do something about it. Biden wrote in his memoirs “Promise me, dad” that he chose not to run for president in 2016 primarily due to Beau’s death.

Despite Biden’s attempts to recall Kennedy and his space program, the current initiative lacks the same level of budget support. The Apollo program garnered massive public investment: more than $20 billion, or more than $220 billion in 2022 dollars adjusted for inflation. Biden’s effort is much more modest and relies on private sector investment.

Still, he has tried to maintain the momentum of public health research investments, including advocating for the Advanced Health Research Projects Agency, modeled after similar research and development initiatives that benefit the Pentagon and the community. Intelligence.

On Monday, Biden announced Dr. Renee Wegrzyn as the inaugural director of ARPA-H, which has been tasked with studying treatments and possible cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and other diseases. She also announced a new National Cancer Institute Fellows program to provide funding to beginning scientists studying cancer treatments and cures, with a focus on underrepresented groups and those of diverse backgrounds.

The president was accompanied by Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of JFK, who is now the US ambassador to Australia. She reiterated the administration’s efforts for him later 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 will have any effect on cancer deaths. There have been no studies showing that they reduce the risk of dying from cancer. Still, they say setting an ambitious goal is important.

Carnival said that National Cancer Institute The study was designed so that any promising diagnostic results could be quickly put into widespread practice while the longer-term study, expected to last up to a decade, progresses. He said the goal was to move closer to a future where cancers could be detected through routine blood tests, potentially reducing the need for more invasive and cumbersome procedures like colonoscopies and thus saving lives.

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

“How do we know which therapies are effective in which disease subtypes? To me, that’s oceanic,” said Donald A. Berry, a biostatistician at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. “The possibilities are enormous. The challenges are huge.”

Despite the challenges, he is optimistic about cutting the cancer death rate in half in the next 25 years.

“We can get to that 50% target by slowing down the disease enough in several cancers without curing anyone,” Berry said. “If I had to bet if we will achieve this 50% reduction, I would bet yes.”

Even without new advances, progress can be made in making care more equitable, said Dr. Crystal Denlinger, chief scientific officer of the National Comprehensive Cancer Networka group of elite cancer centers.

And any effort to reduce the cancer death rate will need to focus on the biggest cancer killer, which is lung cancer. Mainly attributable to smoking, lung cancer now causes more cancer 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 he is helping. The American Cancer Society says such screening helped reduce the cancer death rate by 32% from its peak in 1991 to 2019, the most recent year for which numbers are available.

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

In his speech, Biden highlighted provisions in the Democrats’ health care and climate change bill that the administration says will reduce out-of-pocket drug prices for some widely used cancer treatments. And he celebrated new guarantees for veterans exposed to burned toxic wells, covering their potential cancer diagnoses.

Dr Michael Hassett from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, said Biden’s goal of reducing cancer deaths could be achieved by following two parallel paths: one of discovery and the other of making sure as many people as possible are taking advantage of existing therapies and preventive approaches.

“If we can address both aspects, both challenges, great strides are possible,” Hassett said.

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Johnson reported from Seattle.

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