In an address to attendees at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2017, former Vice President Joe Biden urged optimism in the fight against cancer despite threats of funding cuts under the Trump administration. He also spoke about progress that has been made as part of the Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot.
Former Vice President Joe Biden on April 3 urged optimism in the fight against cancer despite threats by the current administration to drastically cut funding for biomedical research. Biden delivered his remarks as part of an address on the Cancer Moonshot initiative during the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2017 in Washington, DC.
“With Cancer Moonshot, we set out to do two things,” he said. “We wanted to inject the urgency of now into this fight by doing in 5 years what would ordinarily take 10, and to change the culture in order to come up with a new strategy in this fight.”
A major milestone was achieved in December when Congress earmarked an additional $1.8 billion for the Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot as part of the 21st Century Cures Act, noted Biden. However, future progress is threatened by the “draconian cuts” proposed by the Trump administration, including $5.8 billion in NIH funding cuts.
If approved, the budget cuts could have a devastating impact, setting back scientific progress “by 15 years” and putting the odds of getting a grant at “an historic low,” said Biden. “This is no time to undercut progress,” he added, but rather time “to double down” in order to deliver on the promise of science and technology.
However, the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act offers reason for hope, he said. The bill passed with broad bipartisan support, and he noted that a separate bill to rename the Moonshot after Biden's son Beau, who died in 2015 of a brain tumor, was introduced by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The 21st Century Cures Act is an example of the progress that can be made when political parties work together, said Biden. He urged researchers in the audience to continue to push for greater funding on key initiatives and to help legislators prioritize where to invest to get the “biggest bang for the buck.”
Biden also highlighted the progress that has already been made by the Cancer Moonshot, including recent commitments by the private and public sectors. Those include a collaboration between the NCI, Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft to build a sustainable model for maintaining genomic data in the cloud that would be available to all researchers, and an effort by the Department of Defense to digitize and make available its repository of over 34 million pathology samples.
“Cancer never gives up and never surrenders and that's why we have to use every discipline to fight it, and we're starting to do that in a more coordinated way,” said Biden. “We can do more together than we can by working alone.” –Janet Colwell
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