Vice President Joe Biden Speaks at the AACR Annual Meeting 2016

“Today, cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide. And that’s only expected to increase in the coming decades — unless we make more progress today.

“I know we can.”

These were the words of Vice President Joe Biden in his January 12, 2016, blog post, “Inspiring a New Generation to Defy the Bounds of Innovation: A Moonshot to Cure Cancer.” In this post, the vice president introduced his plan to bring leaders in the field of cancer research and treatment together to achieve “a decade worth of advances in five years,” as leader of an initiative announced by President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address earlier that evening.

That was just the beginning of the vice president’s tireless efforts to end cancer as we know it. In the months since, he has toured cancer centers across the United States to meet with researchers, patients, and advocates; spoken with leaders around the world to garner support for international collaborations; and convened a Blue Ribbon Panel of some of the leading minds in cancer research and advocacy to advise the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative.

Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the closing plenary session at the AACR Annual Meeting on Wednesday April 20, 2016. Photo by © AACR/Todd Buchanan 2016
Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the closing plenary session at the AACR Annual Meeting on Wednesday April 20, 2016. Photo by © AACR/Todd Buchanan 2016

Last week, Biden addressed cancer research experts and advocates from around the world assembled at the AACR Annual Meeting 2016 in New Orleans — a meeting attended by 19,500 members of the cancer research community.

In his speech, Biden applauded the tireless efforts cancer researchers are making in bringing new discoveries and treatment choices to cancer patients.

He emphasized the importance of breaking silos and promoting collaborations among academics and between academia and industry to bring treatments to cancer patients faster.

“Why is so much money being spent when, if it is aggregated, everyone acknowledges the answers would come more quickly?”

“We are on the cusp of breakthroughs that will save lives, benefit all of humanity. But we have to work together.”

Biden vowed to fix the limitations and redundancies that can choke federal funding mechanisms, and to facilitate federal support of projects that promote coordination, collaboration, and out-of-the-box thinking.

“I need your help. I need honest evaluations of the kind of changes that could be made [to move the field forward],” he said to the cancer research community.

Hosting Biden at the AACR Annual Meeting 2016 builds upon the AACR’s thought leadership in this national effort to cure cancer.

Just before the announcement of the vice president’s cancer initiative, the AACR convened a distinguished panel of cancer researchers and physician-scientists who met with the vice president’s office to discuss areas of considerable promise in cancer research including precision medicine, immunotherapy, and potential collaboration around big data, citing AACR Project GENIE as an example.

From left to right: Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR, Nancy Davidson, MD, President of the AACR, José Baselga, MD, PhD, immediate Past President of the AACR, and Michael A. Caligiuri, MD, President-Elect of the AACR. Photo by © AACR/Todd Buchanan 2016
From left to right: Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR, Nancy Davidson, MD, President of the AACR, José Baselga, MD, PhD, immediate Past President of the AACR, and Michael A. Caligiuri, MD, President-Elect of the AACR, listen to Vice President Joe Biden’s speech at the AACR Annual Meeting 2016. Photo by © AACR/Todd Buchanan 2016

Biden also invited leaders from the AACR to provide their thoughts and guidance at the special session, “Cancer Moonshot: A Call to Action,” at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

During this special roundtable session, experts discussed many topics, including cutting-edge areas of research and technology, technological innovation and data science advancements, the need for international collaborations, and challenges to overcome, such as a need for enhanced data harmonization, if we are to dramatically accelerate the pace of progress against cancer.

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