Following up on a promise from his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama issued a memorandum to accelerate research to cure cancer, establishing the “White House Cancer Moonshot Task Force.”
The task force draws its name from the pledge by President John F. Kennedy to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.
The Obama initiative draws no such hard and fast time line for a cure, but the memorandum states:
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.
Vice President Joe Biden, who lost his son Beau to cancer, will head the task force, made up of Cabinet leaders. The task force will present a report to Obama in December.
The memorandum also says the task force will establish ways for the federal government to “support greater access to new research, data, and computational capabilities” and “identify opportunities to develop public-private partnerships and increase coordination of the federal government's efforts with the private sector, as appropriate.”
The popular goal of stepping up efforts to cure cancer has bipartisan approval, as Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, is promoting a bill in Congress that would complement the task force.
“We are working in the Senate Health Committee to send to the president’s desk bipartisan legislation that would safely bring lifesaving drugs and medical devices to patients more quickly,” Alexander said in a statement. “The president’s announcement of a White House task force on cancer, along with his precision medicine initiative and the House-passed 21st Cures legislation, set the stage for the Senate to get a bipartisan result.”