Biden's 'cancer moonshot' goals already underway at The James

President Biden visiting the OSUCCC James

IN HIS STATE OF THE UNION address this week, President Joe Biden again pitched his "cancer moonshot" initiative, which began during his time as vice president under Barack Obama. Like the rallying efforts in the United States' 1960s race to the moon, the cancer moonshot is meant to pull together government resources and political will to drastically reduce the mortality rate of cancer and speed the rate of research discoveries.

"Let this be a truly American moment," Biden said Tuesday, "that rallies the country and the world together and proves that we can still do big things."

Biden pointed to President George W. Bush's leading a bipartisan effort to combat AIDS globally.

"It's been a huge success. He thought big, he thought large ... I believe we can do the same thing with cancer."

Cancer's remaining grip on mortality rates

More than 50 years after former President Richard Nixon signed the National Cancer Act and declared a “war on cancer,” Americans diagnosed with cancer today have a much better chance of survival — cancers that were once a death sentence can now be managed as chronic and even curable illnesses. But cancer remains the second-leading cause of death in the United States behind heart disease.

In February 2022, Biden announced the relaunching of the initiative that first began in 2016 — just a year after the then-vice president lost his son Beau to brain cancer. His relaunch declaration detailed both the challenges currently facing researchers, doctors, patients and their families, and what he described as “completely do-able” goals to bring us ever closer to a cancer-free world, including reducing the death rate of cancer by at least 50% within the next 25 years.

Meet some of Ohio State’s cancer warriors on the front lines of cancer care and research

What the moonshot can accomplish

“When we work together, there is nothing beyond our capacity,” Biden said in 2022. “Let’s show the world what’s possible. Let’s show the world we’re committed. That we can do big things. The United States of America — when we work together, there’s nothing beyond our grasp.”

At The Ohio State University and The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James), scientists and health care providers have long been committed to achieving these goals, as Biden saw himself in a visit to the OSUCCC – James in 2021.

“The Cancer Moonshot has tremendous potential impact,” says Raphael Pollock, MD, PhD, director of the OSUCCC – James. He notes that prioritizing increased screenings, especially, in communities that have limited health care access makes the goals of the initiative “very achievable.”

Pollock and the cancer experts at The James have been dedicated to eradicating cancer through patient-centered care, groundbreaking research and excellent education.

Here are some of the ways Ohio State is committed to the multi-pronged goals of the Cancer Moonshot and the enduring vision of a cancer-free world:

Preventing cancer

Biden said that while we have few effective ways to prevent cancer today, scientists are looking at mRNA technology that could be used to stop cancer cells in their tracks, and that we can better address environmental exposures to cancer. At the OSUCCC – James, scientists are discovering that…

Diagnosing cancer sooner

One of the keys to successful cancer treatment is early diagnosis. The Biden administration acknowledged that we must increase access to existing cancer screenings and support patients through the diagnostic process, while expanding the number of cancers that we regularly screen for.
At Ohio State, we’re…

Addressing inequities in access to diagnostics, therapeutics and trials

Equity in health and health care remains a critical issue worldwide. “We can ensure that every community in America — rural, urban, tribal and everywhere else — has access to cutting-edge cancer diagnostics, therapeutics and clinical trials,” Biden said.

Ohio State has made health equity a primary goal in research, education and care. Some recent work includes…

Targeting the right treatments to the right patients

One of the struggles of cancer care today is that we’re still learning how to match the best treatment to each patient. However, prioritizing work in genetics, immunotherapy and precision medicine can help cancer doctors develop better, individualized courses of treatment that are most likely to work for that person.

The OSUCCC – James launched the Pelotonia Institute for Immuno-Oncology (PIIO) in July 2019, focusing on advancing the ability to harness the body’s immune system to fight cancer at every level, from prevention to treatment and survivorship. In addition to the PIIO, we’re learning more about how cancer works:

Speeding progress against the most deadly and rare cancers

There are more than 200 types of cancer, and each requires its own treatment approach — in addition to individual patients needing treatment plans that are customized to their bodies and lives. The Biden administration says we can invest in a “robust pipeline for new treatments,” especially after the COVID-19 pandemic response has shown that we can accelerate clinical trials without sacrificing safety or effectiveness.

New investments can further bolster the development of treatments like those developed at the OSUCCC – James, whose researchers are on the fast track to developing new therapeutics, such as: 

Supporting patients, caregivers and survivors

For some families touched by cancer, they feel lost while trying to navigate diagnosis, treatment and the aftermath. “We can help people overcome the medical, financial and emotional burdens that cancer brings by providing support to navigate cancer diagnosis, treatment and survivorship,” Biden said.

At Ohio State, cancer care stretches beyond the patient to their families, and it stretches beyond treatment into survivorship, while using tools along the way to ease emotional and financial struggles. That includes the many supportive clinics and programs for patients with cancer and their families at the OSUCCC – James, as well as research efforts benefiting survivors — for example, the development of a new surgical procedure to dramatically restore mobility and reduce pain and tissue breakdown for people with prosthetic devices. Available therapies for patients and caretakers include music therapy, gardening and nutrition guidance, occupational therapy and more.  

Learning from all patients’ experiences 

A final goal listed by the Biden administration was to work harder to learn from the experiences of patients with cancer, noting that the diverse personal experiences of patients and their families make their input “essential in developing approaches to end cancer as we know it.”

It’s something held sacred by the faculty and staff at the OSUCCC – James. Ohio State’s groundbreaking research relies on understanding the experiences of patients and caretakers, and on collaborating effectively among multidisciplinary teams and other institutions. This is how we’re able to learn…

At The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and the OSUCCC – James, we welcome President Biden’s challenge and appreciate the White House’s call to mobilize the federal government to help achieve these important goals in creating a cancer-free world.

Accurate, early cancer diagnosis matters

The James Cancer Diagnostic Center gives patients direct, expedited access to diagnostic testing and consultation with Ohio State cancer experts.

Schedule an appointment today


Related websites

Subscribe. The latest from Ohio State Health & Discovery delivered right to your inbox.


Get articles and stories about health, wellness, medicine, science and education delivered right to your inbox from the experts at Ohio State.

Required fields

By clicking "Subscribe" you agree to our Terms of Use.
Learn more about how we use your information by reading our Privacy Policy.