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  • Washington Highlights

    President Biden “Reignites” Cancer Moonshot Initiative


    Christa Wagner, Manager, Government Relations
    Stephen Heinig, Director, Science Policy

    President Joe Biden announced a series of new steps to “reignite” the Cancer Moonshot initiative on Feb. 2, with the goal of “ending cancer as we know it” by halving the number of cancer deaths in the United States in the next 25 years. The Cancer Moonshot originally was established in 2016 by then-President Barack Obama to support cancer research and enable progress in treatment and care [refer to Washington Highlights, Jan. 14, 2016].

    The expanded Moonshot program will include initiatives for early cancer screening and detection and new research, including for potential mRNA vaccines or therapeutics to attack cancer cells as they develop. The revitalization was announced at a White House event gathering Congressional health champions, leaders from across the federal government, and leaders from the medicine, research, and patient communities, including AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD.

    In his prepared remarks, Biden connected the revitalized Cancer Moonshot with other administration initiatives, including increasing enrollment under the Affordable Care Act and his proposal to create an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), modeled on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) [refer to Washington Highlights, June 4, 2021]. The House Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to hold a Feb. 8 hearing on the ARPA-H proposal following the introduction of two bills to authorize the initiative — the ARPA-H Act (H.R. 5585) and the Cures 2.0 Act (H.R. 6000) [refer to Washington HighlightsOct. 22Nov. 19, 2021].

    The president also stressed themes of bipartisan support for cancer research, the need for cross-agency collaboration, and the importance of removing silos and barriers to information flows within health care systems. He also emphasized the importance data sharing.

    On the topic of cross-agency collaboration, he announced the formation of a Cancer Cabinet with leading health agencies, the departments of Defense, Energy, and Veterans Affairs, the Office of the First Lady, and others. A summit will also be convened.

    First Lady Jill Biden, PhD, spoke before the president, underscoring the Biden family’s personal commitment to cancer prevention. A third speaker, Edjah Nduom, MD, associate professor of neurosurgery at Emory University School of Medicine, addressed the importance of the initiative in catalyzing cancer research. Nduom, whose parents emigrated from Ghana, underscored the importance of fostering more inclusive research environments to harness talents and skills of individuals from all backgrounds.

    The Cancer Moonshot was originally authorized through the 21st Century Cures Act (P.L. 114-255) in December 2016, which included $1.8 billion for the Moonshot over seven years. The NIH’s National Cancer Institute received $195 million through the Moonshot in fiscal year (FY) 2021, supplementing other federal cancer initiatives. Biden’s Feb. 2 announcement did not specifically mention any new funds.