Obama proposes cancer “moonshot” in State of the Union address

Heidi Ledford and Jeff Tollefson in Nature:

CancerUS President Barack Obama isn’t going quietly. He began his final year in office by announcing a “moonshot” to cure cancer in his State of the Union address to Congress on 12 January. The effort will be led by vice-president Joe Biden, whose son Beau died of brain cancer last year. “For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the family we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all,” Obama said in a soaring speech that otherwise offered few new proposals. Instead, the president spent most of the address looking back at his accomplishments over roughly seven years in office. The details of the cancer moonshot are still fuzzy. Biden says that he has consulted with nearly 200 physicians, researchers and philanthropists in the past few months and plans to continue to seek such input. Thus far, he has pledged to increase the resources available to combat the disease, and to find ways for the cancer community to work together and share information. The goal is to double the rate of progress against cancer, achieving in five years what otherwise would have taken ten.

The vice-president also pointed to what he sees as key problems that must be tackled. Only 5% of people with cancer participate in clinical trials, he noted in a statement released during the State of the Union speech, and many community oncologists have limited access to the latest treatment advances. Biden’s commitment to the programme, which he first hinted at three months ago, has been hailed by patient advocates, researchers and the biotechnology industry. Advances in cancer therapy, including treatments that harness the immune system and target specific tumour mutations, have brought cancer research to an inflection point, says José Baselga, a cancer researcher at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and president of the American Association for Cancer Research. “Now is the time for a major new initiative in cancer science that supports and builds upon our basic science foundation,” Baselga says.

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