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Biden administration announces National Cancer Plan

The Department of Health and Human Services says the National Cancer Plan will aim at ‘ending cancer as we know it.’

By Oliver Willis - April 03, 2023
Joe Biden
FILE - President Joe Biden speaks on the cancer moonshot initiative at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum, Sept. 12, 2022, in Boston. Whenever the president travels, a special bullet-resistant lectern called the “blue goose,” or its smaller cousin “the falcon,” is in tow. Lately, Biden is rendering them all but obsolete as he increasingly reaches for a hand-held microphone instead. Those who know him best say the mic swap makes Biden a much more natural speaker. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

The Department of Health and Human Services on Monday released its National Cancer Plan with a statement that said, “The plan provides a framework for everyone—across the federal government and all of society—to collaborate in ending cancer as we know it, and to realize the vision laid out by President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden’s Cancer Moonshot.”

“The National Cancer Plan is a vision and a roadmap for how we can make faster progress against this all-too-common disease,” Dr. Monica M. Bertagnolli, director of the National Cancer Institute, said in the statement. “By working together, we can achieve the Cancer Moonshot goal of reducing the cancer death rate by 50% within 25 years.”

The plan lays out eight key goals: preventing cancer; early cancer detection; development of effective treatments; elimination of inequity in cancer care; optimizing the health care system to treat cancer; engaging people who have cancer or who are at risk; improving the usage of data in cancer treatment and research; and increasing diversity among those involved in treating and researching cancer.

The department said the framework is meant to engage all communities involved in treating the disease, including the public health sector (doctors and hospitals) as well as research organizations: “While the government agencies and other organizations that have traditionally comprised the ‘cancer community’ will be essential to achieving the goals of the National Cancer Plan, commitment from many partners in the government, nonprofit, academic, and commercial sectors will speed our efforts. Indeed, every individual has a role to play—from helping friends and neighbors facing cancer to improving health literacy and addressing misinformation, from taking an active role in personal health to supporting programs that promote healthy communities.”

The project of a “cancer moonshot,” styled after the successful drive by NASA in the 1960s to land a man on the moon, was initiated by President Barack Obama in 2016. In his State of the Union speech that year, Obama announced that Joe Biden, then serving as vice president, would head up the project.

In his first speech to a joint session of Congress as president in April 2021, Biden, whose son Beau died of brain cancer in 2015, called on those assembled to increase investment into scientific research and to “end cancer as we know it.” In February of 2022, the White House announced that Biden was “reigniting the Cancer Moonshot.”

The effort has included the promotion of cancer screenings by first lady Jill Biden, along with investments in cancer researchers, improved FDA regulations on tobacco, and expanded lung cancer screening.

Laws Biden has enacted since taking office contain provisions that are beneficial to cancer patients and their families.

The Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law in August 2022, includes a cap on prescription drug costs for many Medicare recipients and authorizes HHS to negotiate drug prices with manufacturers. In a January report, the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation said the caps “will be especially helpful for beneficiaries who take high-priced drugs for conditions such as cancer or multiple sclerosis.”

In his most recent State of the Union speech, delivered Feb. 7, Biden described the “cancer moonshot” as part of a “unity agenda” that could be agreed upon by both Democrats and Republicans.

Biden’s 2024 budget proposal, released March 9, calls for a 7% increase in the budget for the National Cancer Institute, which operates under the National Institutes for Health, to $7.8 billion.

Congressional Republicans have thus far failed to offer up a budget proposal this year, but House Republicans have said they are committed to freezing funding for agencies such as NIH at 2022 levels instead of approving the increases proposed by Biden.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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