Weekly Address: Achieving the Mission of the Cancer Moonshot
The White House
October 29, 2016
Hi, everybody, this is Joe Biden.
I delivered a report to President Obama laying out how far we’ve come since he put me in charge of the Cancer Moonshot. It was back in January and it laid out a real vision of where we need to go in the immediate future; to do in five years what would otherwise take ten; to inject a real sense of urgency into the fighting against cancer; and to change the culture and reimagine our system in order to be able to win.
You know, when President Nixon declared a war on cancer in 1971, he had no army, he had no resources and no clear strategy. But after 45 years of progress, funding research, training scientists and physicians, and treating millions of patients – we now have an army. And we have tools, powerful tools. And with the Moonshot, we now have a clear strategy for the road ahead. It matters, folks, because there’s a consensus now that we’re at an inflection point with science, medicine, technology – all advancing faster than ever and offering real promise. We can’t play by the rules of 1971 – we didn’t have this working force. In 2016, there’s much more we can do.
Just five years ago, for example, immunotherapy using the immune system to kill cancer cells while protecting healthy ones wasn’t taken seriously. Now it is and it’s working with other disciplines and offering real hope. Decades of research has accumulated large amounts of data – but that data is not shared, it’s hard to understand, and it’s often not accessible to researchers and the public. But now we’re in a position to break down these silos and share all because we have an enormous capacity with computing capability to take millions of pieces of data and analyze it. We can do a million billion calculations for a second now.
And the Moonshot vision report reflects what my wife and I, Jill and I have learned about after meeting with thousands of cancer patients, their families, advocates, physicians, researchers, philanthropists, technology leaders, and heads of states from all over the world, what we need to do. It’s everything from enhancing prevention efforts, expanding access to care, forging an international commitment to fight cancer.
This week, I also released a report from the Cancer Moonshot Task Force – the team I’m leading to reimagine the federal government’s fight against this dreaded disease. It touches almost every corner of the government. For example, you’d expect the National Institutes of Health to be involved in researching radiation therapy for cancer patients when radiation is used to deal with after the tumor is taken out. But would you expect NASA to be involved? Well, nobody in the world knows more about radiation and its effects on human body than NASA, whose scientists are constantly finding ways to protect our astronauts from harmful radiation in space. Now, thanks to the Moonshot, the National Institute of Cancer will be using that knowledge at NASA to help cancer patients.
Here’s another great example. Right now, only 4% of all the adults who are diagnosed with cancer ever get to enroll in clinical trial, clinical trials save lives. Why? Most patients – even most of the doctors treat them out of the great medical centers – don’t know where to go. And it’s a problem for drug companies as well – they can’t do as many research trials because they can’t accumulate enough patients to generate the research, to find new breakthroughs, and get them to patients. But now thanks to the work of the Presidential Innovation Fellows – some of the top technology minds who left Silicon Valley to work at the White House – you can now go to Trials.Cancer.Gov, type in real words like “breast cancer,” a zip code, your age, and you’ll more easily be able to find clinical trials that have been conducted in your area to become part of them.
Another thing that’s happening that didn’t happen before is that the private sector is also reimagining what it can and what it should do. In just the last few months, more than 70 new public, private sector commitments have been made by companies like Microsoft and Amazon. IBM, for example, IBM came to us and offered their supercomputer Watson, to partner with the Department of Defense, and the largest hospital in the world – the VA. Now, a veteran who is diagnosed with cancer at the Veterans’ Administration can get his or her cancer genome done immediately, their tumor sequenced and then Watson will search all the known therapies in the world to target that particular cancer – and deliver it right to the patient and the doctor.
Folks, most of you assume we’ve already been doing a lot of these things. But We weren’t, but we are now. And the Moonshot is about, is about all of us doing our part. Visit Cancer.Serve.Gov to learn how you can volunteer to help loved ones, friends, and neighbors.
In our fight against cancer, we have to be unwilling to postpone as well, for the loved ones we’ve lost and the ones we can still save.
So thanks, and have a great weekend. May God protect our troops.