Vice President's Focus on Moonshot Initiative During Last Year in Office

Following a personal tragedy, vice president Joe Biden has sworn to dedicate his last year in office to help boost cancer research.

Following a personal tragedy—the loss of his oldest son to brain cancer late last year—vice president Joe Biden has sworn to dedicate his last year in office to help boost cancer research, “Because I know there are Democrats and Republicans on the Hill who share our passion, our passion to silence this deadly disease,” he said in a press briefing last year.

Biden’s staff, meanwhile, have set the wheels in motion, meeting with a group of researchers from the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) last week to focus on smaller initiatives that stand a chance of getting done within this short time frame of a year. During an 80-minute meeting with AACR scientists, Biden’s top policy staffers said they were interested in things beyond discovery—which takes years of investment—but something else that can be more impactful, according to AACR president Jose Baselga, MD, who spoke with STAT. “They are on a time crunch. They know that there is one year left of his administration. They had a sense of urgency,” Baselga said.

Baselga said in his interview that an issue of interest was to develop a national open-access data-sharing initiative for scientists. This would be similar to what the American Society of Clinical Oncology is trying with its CancerLinQ initiative—a health information technology platform that is being developed to aggregate and analyze real-world cancer data that can provide real-time performance feedback to providers in comparison with their peers; provide real-time clinical decision support; and help providers uncover patterns in patient characteristics, treatments, and outcomes, to improve care.

The scientists also drew the aides’ attention to the importance of next generation gene sequencing in personalized medicine.

Also present at the meeting was George Demetri, MD, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He told STAT that Biden’s staff discussed ways to break down silos, and the data-sharing initiative could be an important step in the direction.