Prior to the 1960s, the idea of man landing on the moon seemed impossible. Our feet were planted firmly on the ground with the moon visible, but so far out of reach.
Yet, as a country, we made it there.
Now, President Obama has announced the creation of the White House Cancer Moonshot Task Force, led by Vice President Biden, with the hopes of achieving what once seemed impossible in relation to cancer.
Shoot for the Moon
First, it’s important to examine why this has been dubbed a “moonshot initiative.” The name is derived from the Apollo 11 mission in which man, against all odds, landed on the moon. A moonshot project addresses a massive problem – in this case the prevention, curing, and treatment of cancer – the world’s number one killer.
And massive this initiative is. In his announcement of the newly created task force, President Obama says,
“It is of critical national importance that we accelerate progress towards prevention, treatment, and a cure – to double the rate of progress in the fight against cancer – and put ourselves on a path to achieve in just 5 years research and treatment gains that otherwise might take a decade or more.”
Besides the acceleration of finding a cure and progressing treatment for cancer, the task force also aims to support research initiatives and improve patient access to care.
Why Is This Initiative Important to the Vice President?
Let’s face it, cancer, in some way, touches us all. In 2016 alone, there are expected to be over 1.6 million new cancer diagnoses. Even worse, this year cancer will kill 600,000 Americans, both old and young.
That translates to 4,620 new cases and 1,630 deaths every single day.
Vice President Biden deeply and personally understands the devastation of cancer. In May of 2015, his oldest son Joseph Robinette “Beau” Biden III passed away after battling brain cancer. To honor his son’s memory and prevent other families from feeling the pain he experienced, he is taking charge of this task force.
A Bipartisan Effort Is Key to This Cancer Moonshot
On February 1st, 2016, the White House announced that it would like to spend $1 Billion to support Vice President Joe Biden’s cancer initiative.
In fact, they’re ready to start immediately. For Fiscal Year 2016, $195 Million is expected for new cancer initiatives at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The proposed Fiscal Year 2017 budget includes another $755 Million for cancer-related research at both the NIH and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
But where will this money come from?
The American Cancer Society’s (ACS) Cancer Statistics Tool shows cancer statistics for each state and illness. But what it doesn’t show you is information on cancer in regards to political party affiliation. And it shouldn’t. We don’t know if there are more republicans or more democrats dying from cancer, and there’s no way to tell which party will respond better to treatment or which party will be diagnosed more often in the future.
Such a statistic might sound absurd; and that’s because it is. The truth is that cancer defies party lines – cancer’s death toll affects us all, regardless of political affiliation and background.
Finding the money to fund the initial and future phases of this moonshot project will be the toughest roadblock to this massive undertaking. It’s going to take a bipartisan effort – not a divided Congress – to be done with cancer once and for all.
Is the Cancer Moonshot Initiative Just a Dream?
President Kennedy said in his 1962 Moon Speech,
“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”
Eradicating cancer is this decade’s responsibility, and one we cannot postpone. One we must fight for, and one we must win. We must dedicate all of our resources to this cause. It might be called the Cancer Moonshot Task Force, but as history proves, Americans can achieve anything we are willing to put the effort into.