Joe Biden Brings Cancer “Moonshot” to Boston

Vice President Joe Biden on the Cancer Moonshot Initiative at Edward M. Kennedy Institute
Vice President Joe Biden speaks about the Cancer Moonshot Initiative at Edward M. Kennedy Institute Thursday evening. Photo by Graham Pearsall/BU News Service
Written by Sarah Toy

By Sarah Toy
BU News Service

Two days after he provided his cancer “moonshot” recommendations to the president, Vice President Joe Biden delivered a speech in Boston yesterday extolling the initiative, saying that recent technological and medical advances are providing opportunities that were previously unavailable.

“With this moonshot, I believe we have a clear strategy on how to move ahead,” he said during a speech at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate.

Biden spoke enthusiastically about technological advances such as immunotherapy and genome sequencing, which scientists are using to work towards cancer management tailored to individual patients, rather than one-size-fits-all treatments.

Victoria Reggie Kennedy and Joe Biden

Victoria Reggie Kennedy introduces Biden in the building named after her late husband and senator Edward M. Kennedy. Photo by Graham Pearsall/BU News Service

He discussed blood biopsy technologies, which he said were “on the cusp of being available.” These blood tests detect specific markers in a patient’s blood, identifying the patient as predisposed to a certain cancer or as a candidate for a particular drug.

The main goal of the Cancer Moonshot initiative is to double the rate of progress in cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. Biden acknowledged that there were skeptics, referencing Nixon’s 1971 “War on Cancer”, which he said “didn’t go very far.”

Biden insisted things were different now, citing decades of funding research, millions of patients treated, and new technology.

He also spoke about cancer in personal terms, sharing how it had affected his own life.

“My Beau was diagnosed with a death sentence,” he said.

Audience members listen to Biden's speech. Photo by Graham Pearsall/BU News Service

Audience members listen to Biden’s speech. Photo by Graham Pearsall/BU News Service

Biden recalled the moment when a physician told him there wasn’t much more they could do for his son other than compassionate care.

“I almost knocked him off his ass,” he said. Biden’s son passed away in 2015 from brain cancer.

“Without hope, there’s no life,” he said.

Biden hopes the White House initiative will enhance cancer prevention efforts, increase data sharing among scientists, speed up drug approval processes, and make it easier for patients to enroll in cancer trials.

“As long as you’re alive, you have an obligation to strive,” he said, quoting his mother.

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