Boston Doctors React to Joe Biden’s ‘Moonshot’ Cancer Initiative

Some local oncologists met with Biden last week to discuss the plan.

Joe Biden

Joe Biden photo via Shutterstock

If you were watching Tuesday’s State of the Union address, you likely heard President Obama’s endorsement of Vice President Biden’s “Moonshot” initiative to find a cure for cancer. But what is it, exactly?

Per a post on Biden’s Medium account, the national effort will involve both an increase in funding to public and private cancer-fighting resources, and a renewed effort to bring cancer researchers and specialists together to find a cure. Biden also writes about promising avenues, such as immunotherapy, genomics, and combination therapies, that should be pursued further.

“The Federal government will do everything it possibly can — through funding, targeted incentives, and increased private-sector coordination — to support research and enable progress,” he wrote on Medium. “We’ll encourage leading cancer centers to reach unprecedented levels of cooperation, so we can learn more about this terrible disease and how to stop it in its tracks.”

In addition to Obama’s endorsement, Biden’s plan has the support of members of another key group: Boston oncologists, many of whom were consulted before the Vice President’s announcement.

Jeff Engelman, of the Engelman cancer laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital, was part of a group of physicians who represented the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in a discussion with Biden last week.

“We had a vibrant meeting focused on developing big ideas that could have a transforming impact on cancer,” he says. “The Vice President is committed to accelerating progress in the field, and is looking forward to working closely with cancer scientists and doctors across the country to realize this goal.”

George Demetri, an oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, was also part of an AACR group, which advised Biden on how to bring together disparate aspects of cancer research to tackle technological obstacles like genetic tumor analysis and utilizing patient databases.

“All of us are in awe of the dedication of Vice President Biden, with the support of President Obama, in crystallizing the efforts and focusing momentum to develop a large scale and collaborative path forward,” he says. “The advances in technology are mind-bending, and now the opportunities to apply them to the cancer problem on a national scale are key to cancer as the paradigm example of how precision medicine can be life-saving.”