Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Opposition to veep's clarion cry is growing

N.Y. Times writer joins those who oppose Biden's use of 'cancer moonshot' metaphor

Margot Sanger-Katz
The bandwagon against Vice President Joseph Biden's call for a "cancer moonshot" is picking up speed — and riders.

The latest person to rap Biden's moonshot metaphor — contending that "decades of research have suggested…that the NASA space program is not a good comparison" — is Margot Sanger-Katz, regular columnist for The New York Times' online magazine, The Upshot. 

Biden's rallying cry, in hopes of finding a cure for the disease, followed the cancer death of his son, Beau.

Sanger-Katz's piece cites Barack Obama's reference to Biden's plan in January's State of the Union address, and notes that the president said he was "putting Joe in charge of Mission Control" so that we could "make America the country that cures cancer once and for all."

The proposed budget for the moonshot is just under $1 billion.

But Sanger-Katz points out the clarion call isn't new.

She reminds readers "you can see why the news media has latched onto the phrase. 'Moonshot' has echoes of President John F. Kennedy's stirring 1961 speech in which he called for a space program that could send a man to the moon and return him safely — a goal that was achieved only eight years later."

She also quotes President Richard M. Nixon as saying "the time has come in American when the same kind of concentrated effort that…took man to the moon should be turned toward conquering this dread disease."

As well as George  W. Bush, who while running for president in 2000, called for a "medical moonshot" to cure the malady.

Sanger-Katz correctly advises, however, that "we now know that cancer is not one disease, but many, with complex causes and triggers, and that there will be no single cure for all of them."

She also suggests that $1 billion won't go far toward sufficiently bolstering any of the initiatives currently being placed "under the moonshot banner: vaccines for some cancers, combination drug therapies for others, immunotherapy treatments for still other types."

The budgeted amount, she writes, is "a small component of the nearly $4 trillion federal budget" and badly compares with the original moonshot's cost ("$160 billion in today's dollars"), the annual $5.2 billion budget of the National Cancer Institute, or the reported $1.4 billion cost of bringing a a single new drug to market.

Costs of cancer research, as well as a glimpse of politics in regard to that research, are covered in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," the VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at caregivers.

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