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In State of the Union, Biden presses fight against cancer


The president aimed to rally support for the cancer moonshot. Biden says he hopes to 'cure some cancers once and for all.'

In his State of the Union address, President Biden once again made an impassioned call on Congress to join in the battle against cancer.

Biden has repeatedly said he wants to end cancer as we know it, or at least make it a manageable condition if it can’t be totally eradicated. And he reiterated that rallying cry Tuesday night.

“Our goal is to cut the cancer death rate by at least 50% over the next 25 years,” Biden said. “Turn more cancers from death sentences into treatable diseases. And provide more support for patients and families.”

“It’s personal for so many of us.”

It’s a wholeheartedly personal mission for the president. His son, Beau, died of cancer at the age of 46, and the president has pushed to expand cancer studies, and medical research in general.

When Biden was vice president, President Barack Obama tapped him to lead the “cancer moonshot.” A year ago, Biden revived the moonshot to make advances in cancer.

During his speech Tuesday night, Biden pointed to the parents of a young girl named Ava, who was diagnosed with a rare kidney cancer when she was just a year old. Her parents, Maurice and Kandice, sat near First Lady Jill Biden during the State of the Union. Ava, who will be 4 years old next month, “is on her way to being cancer free,” Biden said.

The young girl was at the White House Tuesday night, he said. “She’s watching from the White House tonight, if she’s not asleep already,” Biden said.

“For the lives we can save and for the lives we have lost, let this be a truly American moment that rallies the country and the world together and proves that we can do big things,” Biden said.

Before the speech, the White House pointed out that the landmark 21st Century Cures Act expires this year. The law, passed in 2016, provided $1.8 billion for cancer research over seven years.

Aiming to engender support for the battle against cancer, Biden cited the 20th anniversary of PEPFAR - the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

“Twenty years ago, under the leadership of President Bush and countless advocates and champions, we undertook a bipartisan effort through PEPFAR to transform the global fight against HIV/AIDS. It’s been a huge success," Biden said.

“I believe we can do the same with cancer,” he said. “Let’s end cancer as we know it and cure some cancers once and for all.”

The Biden administration has created a new research agency designed to create breakthroughs in cancer and other diseases: the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, dubbed ARPA-H. This agency has been given a different direction than other federal research agencies, and has been specifically tasked with financing high-risk, high-reward studies that could lead to cures.

Before the State of the Union address, the White House outlined several steps the administration has taken to combat cancer, including a “Cancer Cabinet” and a host of new policies and resources.

The White House is also asking Congress to reauthorize the National Cancer Act, which helped establish the National Cancer institute more than 50 years ago. The cancer battle is also personal to Monica Bertagnolli, the director of the National Cancer Institute. She disclosed in December that she is battling breast cancer.

Even in the toxic partisanship in Congress, Democratic and Republican lawmakers continue to offer strong support for health research.

The $1.7 trillion omnibus spending package Biden signed in December included more aid for research. The National Institutes of Health, the chief source of federal aid for medical research, received an additional $2.5 billion in aid, a 5.6% increase.

Danielle Carnival, the White House’s cancer moonshot coordinator, said in a briefing Tuesday morning that the Biden administration aims to increase access to support for cancer patients and their families. They pointed to the importance of patient navigation services to improve outcomes.

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