Bidens Celebrate Progress, Highlight Need for More at Biden Cancer Summit
“Today, we celebrate the survivors, the caregivers, the doctors, the nurses, [and] the scientists by highlighting their stories and their courage,” said former Vice President Joe Biden, co-chair, Biden Cancer Initiative, as he gave the opening remarks at the 2018 Biden Cancer Summit. “We’re not just here to talk, we’re here to act.”
The flagship event of more than 450 Biden Cancer Community Summits convening throughout the day is focusing on sharing experiences, promoting new solutions, and bridging gaps in cancer care. Speakers who represented different stakeholders--clinicians, researchers, patients, and advocates--will join the stage to offer their insights, experiences, and research with the hope of offering a better tomorrow.
Biden offered words of hope for the audience, remarking on medical innovations and progress that is being made in the treatment of the disease. However, he followed his words of hope with words of caution, reminding the audience that, this year, 18 million people worldwide will be diagnosed with cancer. “If we maintain the status quo, it will be 26 million by 2020,” he said.
Jill Biden, co-chair of the Biden Cancer Initiative followed her husband’s speech with the summit’s keynote address, echoing his words of both hope and caution that there is still more work that needs to be done.
She opened her speech with the acknowledgment that everyone in the room has been touched by cancer in some way, whether they had a family member or friend struggling with the disease or are a survivor themselves.
“We’re here today because of what’s at stake,” she said, highlighting participation in summits from all over the world. “We are all searching for answers. We dare to believe that together we will beat this.”
Since their peak in 1991, cancer death rates have fallen 26%, but this progress is uneven, she said. Rural, black, Latino, and native American communities see fewer positive cancer outcomes, and poverty draws a line between surviving and succumbing to the disease.
There are also differences in survival by disease type. The arrival of immunotherapy has greatly improved survival rates for metastatic melanoma, for example; while the type of brain cancer that claimed the life of the Bidens' son, former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, at age 46, remains difficult to treat.
“Though improvement in diagnosis and treatment can treat the statistics, individuals still struggle to cope and understand the complicated medical environment,” the former Second Lady of the United States said. “Patients and their families, too often, feel overwhelmed by medical jargon and treatment options. They feel alone and confused by the complexity of the very healthcare system that is there to support their journey.”
All of this is not for a lack of trying, she said, highlighting the advocacy work of organizations. But, the gaps that exist between scientists, patients, advocates, and nonprofits are still untenable.
She called for improving data standards and helping patients share data, reducing disparities in outcomes, providing greater access to patient-centered clinical trials, and changing our culture to make the best use of investments.
Through the summit and the Biden Cancer Initiative, Jill Biden says she hopes the collaboration will help develop a road map to navigate the disease.