Biden aims to reduce cancer deaths by 50% over the next 25 years

President Joe Biden pledges to reduce cancer deaths by 50% — a new target for the disease “moonshot” initiative announced in 2016 when he was vice president.

Biden has set out a 25-year timeline to achieve that goal, as part of his wider effort to end cancer as we know it, according to senior government officials who previewed Wednesday’s announcement on condition of anonymity.

The issue is very personal to Biden: He lost his oldest son, Beau, to brain cancer in 2015.

The pain the president is experiencing is shared by many Americans. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 1,918,030 new cancers and 609,360 cancer deaths this year. Essentially, what Biden wants to do is save more than 300,000 lives each year from the disease, something the government says is possible because the age-adjusted death rate has already fallen by about 25% over the past two decades.
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Biden was due to make comments from the East Room of the White House on Wednesday, along with his wife, Jill, and Vice President Kamala Harris. Also scheduled to attend the speech: members of Congress and the administration and approximately 100 members of the cancer community, including patients, survivors, health care providers, families, advocacy groups and research organizations.

As part of the effort, Biden will assemble a “cancer cabinet” with 18 federal departments, agencies and offices, including leaders from the ministries of Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, Defense, Energy and Agriculture.

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There were no plans to announce new funding commitments on Wednesday, although the government will set out why it believes it can curb cancer through efforts such as increased screening and eliminating treatment inequalities. The coronavirus pandemic has consumed healthcare resources and resulted in people missing more than 9.5 million cancer screenings.

The White House will also host a summit on the cancer initiative and continue a series of roundtables on the topic. The goal is to improve the quality of treatment and people’s lives, something with deep economic resonance. The National Cancer Institute reported in October that the economic burden of treatment exceeded $21 billion in 2019, including $16.22 billion in out-of-pocket patient costs.

President Barack Obama announced the cancer program during his last full year in office, raising $1.8 billion over seven years to fund research. Obama designated Biden, then his vice president, as “mission control,” an acknowledgment of Biden’s grief as a parent and desire to do something about it. Biden wrote in his memoir “Promise Me, Dad” that he chose not to run for president in 2016, mainly because of Beau’s death.

When Biden announced in 2016 that he was not seeking the Democratic nomination, he said he regretted not being president because “I wanted to be the president who ended cancer because it’s possible.”

The effort fell somewhat out of the public eye when Donald Trump became president, although Trump, a Republican, in his 2019 State of the Union address proposed $500 million over 10 years for childhood cancer research.

Biden continued the work as a private individual by founding the Biden Cancer Initiative to help organize resources to improve cancer care. When Biden ran for president in 2020, he had tears in his eyes when he said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that “Beau should be president, not me.”

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