President Joe Biden this week announced the relaunching of his ambitious “Cancer Moonshot,” a bold initiative first introduced in 2016, just a year after the then-vice president lost his son Beau to brain cancer. The initiative aims to drastically reduce the mortality rate of cancer and speed the rate of research discoveries.
Fifty 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.
Biden’s announcement on Feb. 2 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.
“When we work together, there is nothing beyond our capacity,” Biden said. “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 last year
“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:
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
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.