On the 60th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s address, US President Joe Biden directed his predecessor, pledging to continue his administration’s efforts to “end cancer as we know it.”
The president was traveling to Boston on Monday to draw attention to a new, federally supported study looking for evidence that blood tests are used to screen for many cancers.
This is a potential game-changing factor in diagnostic tests to dramatically improve early detection of cancers. He also planned other advertisements aimed at improving the lives of those suffering from cancer.
His speech at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum comes as Biden seeks to rally the nation around developing treatments and treatments for the common diseases that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks as the second-highest killer of people in the United States after heart disease.
In Europe, cancer rates are higher, with an estimated 280 deaths per 100,000 on the continent in 2018 – compared to 189 per 100,000 in the US over the same period – according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
Biden hopes to bring the United States closer to the goal he set in February of reducing local cancer deaths by 50% over the next 25 years and dramatically improving the lives of caregivers and people with cancer.
Biden’s grief as a father as a driving force in eradicating disease
Danielle Carnival, the White House’s Moonshot coordinator, told the Associated Press that the administration sees huge potential in beginning a blood diagnostic study to identify and treat cancers.
“One of the most promising technologies is to develop blood tests that hold the promise of detecting many cancers in a single blood test and to imagine the impact that could have on our ability to detect cancer early and in a more equitable way,” said Carnival.
“We think the best way to get us to where that is is to test the technologies we have today and see what works and what really impacts longevity.”
In 2022, the American Cancer Society estimates that 1.9 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed, and 609,360 people will die from cancer.
The issue is personal for Biden, who lost his adult son Beau in 2015 to brain cancer. After Poe’s death, Congress passed the 21st Century Cure Act, which appropriated $1.8 billion over seven years for cancer research and was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2016.
Obama appointed Biden, then Vice President, to run Mission Watch to channel cancer money in recognition of Biden’s grief as a parent and his desire to do something about it.
Biden wrote in his memoir Promise Me, Dad that he chose not to run for president in 2016 primarily because of Boe’s death.
Despite Biden’s attempts to return to Kennedy and his space program, the current initiative lacks the same level of budget support.
The Apollo program generated huge public investment – more than $20 billion, or more than $220 billion (€217.4 billion) in 2022, adjusted for inflation. Biden’s “enormous” effort is much more modest and relies on private sector investment.
However, Biden has tried to maintain momentum to invest in public health research, including the Advanced Research Projects Agency’s advocacy for health, along the lines of similar research and development initiatives that benefit the Pentagon and the intelligence community.
On Monday, Biden announced that Dr. Renee Figerzen is the inaugural director of ARPA-H, which has been tasked with studying therapies and potential treatments for cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and other diseases.
He also announced a new program for National Cancer Institute scientists to provide resources for early-career scientists studying cancer treatments and treatments.
In Boston, Biden also spoke at Logan International Airport to highlight spending from last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law.
“We risk losing our supremacy as a nation to China, and the rest of the world catching up,” he said. “That stops now, with investments like the one we’re celebrating here today.”
Enormous potential and challenges
Scientists now realize that cancer is not one disease but hundreds of diseases that respond differently to different treatments.
Some types of cancer contain biomarkers that can be targeted by existing drugs and that slow tumor growth. Many targets are waiting to be discovered.
“How do we learn what treatments are effective in which subtypes of the disease? That’s for me my peripheral,” said Donald Berry, a biostatistician at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. “The possibilities are enormous. The challenges are enormous.”
Despite the challenges, he is optimistic about halving the cancer death rate over the next 25 years.
“We can reach that 50 percent goal by adequately slowing down the disease across various cancers without treating anyone,” Berry said. “If I bet if we’d get that 50% cut, I’d bet yes.”
Even without new breakthroughs, progress can be made by making care more equitable, said Dr. Crystal Denlinger, chief scientific officer of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, a group of distinguished cancer centers.
And any effort to reduce cancer mortality should focus on the biggest cancer killer, lung cancer. Mostly attributed 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 helps. The American Cancer Society says such screening has helped cut the cancer death rate by 32% from its peak in 1991 to 2019, the most recent year for which figures are available.
But only 5% of eligible patients are screened for lung cancer.
“It’s tragic,” said Dr. Roy Herbst, a lung specialist at Yale Cancer Center.
“The moon launch should be a social solution as well as a scientific and medical solution,” Herbst said. “We’ll have to find a way to make screening easier, cover it fully, and have more screening facilities.”
Dr. Michael Hassett of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston said Biden’s goal of reducing cancer deaths can be achieved by following two parallel paths: one to detect and the other to ensure that as many people as possible reap the benefits of existing treatments and preventative approaches. .
“If we can address both sides, both challenges, significant progress is possible,” Hassett said.
In breast cancer, for example, Hassett’s research found that many women who could benefit from the hormone-blocking pill either never start treatment or stop taking it before the recommended five years.
“These are big loopholes,” Hassett said. “This is an effective treatment. But if many people are not taking this drug or if they are taking it but stop it before finishing the course of treatment, the benefits that the drug can provide will not be realized.”