NEW YORK – The White House announced Wednesday that it is reigniting the Cancer Moonshot initiative launched and spearheaded by President Joe Biden during his tenure as vice president under Barack Obama.
The renewed effort is tasked with halving the cancer death rate over the next 25 years, while improving the lives of cancer patients and survivors. Citing recent progress in cancer therapeutics and diagnostics, as well as public health lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic response, the White House said that it's now possible to set these ambitious goals.
Specific objectives include the re-establishment of a White House coordinator in the Executive Office of the President and the formation of a Cancer Cabinet, bringing together cross-governmental agencies to help establish and make progress on Cancer Moonshot goals.
Outlining the program, Biden described cancer as a disease too often diagnosed late, calling for increased access to existing screening methods and investment in the development of new early detection technologies.
"Five years ago, detecting many cancers at once through blood tests was a dream. Now new technologies and rigorous clinical trials could put this within our reach. Detecting and diagnosing cancers earlier means there may be more effective treatment options," the White House stated.
Among other things, the Moonshot is tasked with responding to what it estimated as 9.5 million missed cancer screenings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The president's Cancer panel simultaneously released a report entitled "Closing Gaps in Cancer Screening," which lays out recommendations focused on connecting people, communities, and systems to increase equity and access.
Findings include the observation that significant numbers of individuals do not receive timely, appropriate follow-up care after an abnormal screening result. Moreover, Americans in communities of color and socially/economically disadvantaged populations appear to be at particular risk, presenting with more advanced disease at the time of diagnosis, enduring aggressive treatment, or dying from cancers that could have been detected at earlier, more treatable stages.
The Moonshot effort will work to promote more equitable access to screening and prevention via at-home options and mobile screening, aided by community health networks that were built and strengthened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The National Cancer Institute will organize efforts among its bodies to offer new screening access points and will lead federal agencies in work to expedite research and development of multicancer detection tests: a growing group of genomic and epigenomic technologies that have emerged in recent years.
The White House has also pledged to host a Cancer Moonshot summit, bringing together agency leadership, patient organizations, biopharmaceutical companies, researchers, public health, and healthcare communities to "highlight innovation, progress, and new commitments."
For patients diagnosed with cancer, Biden said the Moonshot will seek to promote advances in mRNA vaccine technologies, which could lead to vaccines that improve immune responses to tumors. It will also work to ensure the wealth of genomically targeted drugs developed in recent years are accessible to those who can benefit.
Efforts will also focus on speeding progress in treatments for "the most deadly and rare cancers, including childhood cancers."
"We can invest in a robust pipeline for new treatments, and the COVID-19 pandemic response has demonstrated we can accelerate clinical trials without compromising safety and effectiveness," the White House wrote.
Finally, the president pledged that the initiative will also work to develop better support for patients, caregivers, and survivors to better "overcome the medical, financial, and emotional burdens that cancer brings."