Monday, September 19, 2022

Joe Biden uses anniversary of JFK 'moonshot' speech to lift off fighting-cancer metaphor

With a nod to a John Fitzgerald Kennedy speech about space travel, Joe Biden has drawn attention to his own "moonshot" to fight cancer.

The president has used his metaphor to push a federally backed study that seeks to validate using blood tests to screen against multiple cancers.

A recent Associated Press story by Zeke Miller and Carl K. Johnson indicates the Biden's endorsement could make the study "a potential game-changer in diagnostic testing to dramatically improve early detection of cancers." 

The Biden bully-pulpit push came at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston that marked the 60th anniversary of JFK's "moonshot" speech.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cancers are the second highest killer of Americans after heart disease. The American Cancer Society has estimated that 1.9 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed this year, with more than 600,000 deaths predicted.

Biden, the AP story says, "hopes to move the U.S. closer to the goal he set in February of cutting U.S. cancer fatalities by 50% over the next 25 years and to dramatically improve the lives of caregivers and those suffering from cancer."

Danielle Carnival, PhD
The article quotes Danielle Carnival, a PhD and the White House cancer moonshot coordinator, as saying that the best way to proceed "is to really test out the technologies we have today and see what works and what really has an impact on extending lives."

She cites as "one of the most promising technologies" the "development of blood tests that offer the promise of detecting multiple cancers in a single blood test."

Cancer, of course, has long been a Biden priority — stemming from the loss of his son, Beau, in 2015 to brain cancer. The president wrote in his memoir "Promise Me, Dad" that he chose not to run in 2016 primarily because of his son's death.

Scientists now understand, the AP piece notes, "that cancer is not a single disease but hundreds of diseases that respond differently to different treatments."   

Any effort to reduce the cancer death rate, the story continues, "will need to focus on the biggest cancer killer, which is lung cancer. Mostly attributable to smoking, lung cancer now causes more cancer deaths than any other cancer. Of the 1,670 daily cancer deaths in the United States, more than 350 are from lung cancer."

Dr. Roy Herbst, a lung specialist at Yale Cancer Center, thinks the current situation is "tragic." The moonshot, he observes, "is going to have to be a social fix as well as a scientific and medical fix. We're going to have to find a way that screening becomes easier, that it's fully covered, that we have more screening facilities."

Biden wants Americans who've delayed cancer screenings because of the pandemic to seek them out quickly, "reminding them that early detection can be key to avoiding adverse outcomes."

More information about the federal government funding research can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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