The Biden administration on Wednesday announced the relaunch of the Cancer Moonshot initiative, which was first launched in 2016, with the goal of cutting the cancer death rate in half over the next 25 years.
Details on the initiative
According to a White House statement, the initiative’s goals will include reducing the age-adjusted cancer death rate by at least 50% in the next 25 years, improving the experience of those living with cancer and their families, and “end[ing] cancer as we know it today.”
The administration will appoint a White House Cancer Moonshot coordinator who will serve within the Executive Office of the President. The administration will also form a “Cancer Cabinet,” which will include representatives from 18 different government departments, including HHS, NIH, CDC, and CMS.
The initiative will also seek address the more than 9.5 million cancer screenings that were missed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. To do so, the relaunch will provide mobile screenings in areas without easy access to a clinic, and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) will offer new access points for screenings at NCI cancer centers and other networks.
In addition, NCI will lead other federal agencies in a program aimed at studying and evaluating multicancer detection tests, “which could help detect cancers when there may be more effective treatment options,” according to the White House.
Meanwhile, HHS will commit to “accelerating efforts to nearly eliminate cervical cancer through screening and HPV vaccination, with a particular focus on reaching people who are most at risk.”
Some experts argued to the Washington Post that the Cancer Moonshot’s goal of reducing the cancer death rate by 50% was too modest.
“The original moonshot demonstrated that it was possible to compress a decade’s worth of progress into a few short years,” Ellen Sigal, chair and founder of Friends of Cancer Research, said. “We can’t afford to not make that opportunity a reality again.”
However, Clifford Hudis, CEO of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, welcomed the goal, saying it was a more realistic view of the challenge cancer poses to the United States. “We have had some disappointment with overly ambitious goals,” he said. “I think realism and maybe even over-delivering is better.”
Deb Schrag, an oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, said the goal was appropriate, but cautioned that one challenge could be addressing cancers related to obesity. “We don’t have a good solution for obesity,” Schrag said.
Some experts noted the administration’s announcement didn’t include details on how the Cancer Moonshot will be funded.
“We need to understand that if we’re really serious about this, we need to make sure there’s funding available to develop new technologies and implement them,” Margaret Foti, CEO of the American Association for Cancer Research, said. “New technologies are expensive.”
A White House official told the Post that the administration didn’t include funding mechanisms in the announcement because it wanted to start with a broad discussion of ideas. The official added that he’s “very confident” Congress will provide funding for the initiative, saying that efforts to combat cancer typically win bipartisan support. (White House fact sheet, 2/2; McGinley, Washington Post, 2/2; Roubein, “The Health 202,” Washington Post, 2/2)