Time and again, politicians, researchers and medical professionals have taken on cancer, pledging to eradicate the disease. Now, President Obama has joined the fray introducing the “moonshot” program saying, “let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.” Could this be the start of the end to mesothelioma and other cancers?
During President Obama’s Jan. 12 State of the Union address he announced a national effort to “cure cancer.” Obama has allocated the money and put Vice President Joe Biden at the helm. The two of them believe this “moonshot” will bring about the breakthroughs needed to bring an end to the needless suffering of millions of Americans – and ultimately, people worldwide. The number of cancer cases in the U.S. is expected to rise to 22 million in the next 20 years.
“For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the families that we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all,” said Obama.
Last month, according to Obama, Biden worked with Congress to allocate an extra $2 billion for scientists at the National Institutes of Health, “the strongest resources that they’ve had in over a decade.” In addition, Biden and his team have met with hundreds of the world’s top cancer physicians, researchers, and philanthropists, including those at the University of Pennsylvania Abramson Cancer Center where Biden held the formal launch for the program.
“And the goal of this initiative — this “Moonshot” — is to seize this moment,” said Vice President Joe Biden in a Jan. 12 press release, on his blog on Medium, announcing the initiative. “To accelerate our efforts to progress towards a cure, and to unleash new discoveries and breakthroughs for other deadly diseases.”
“My commitment is not for the next 12 months,” Biden told the attendees at Abramson on Jan 15. “I’ve been stunned by the overwhelming response of welcoming me, to ask me to be the facilitator and convener….I plan on doing this the rest of my life.”
Biden selected Penn Medicine for “the cutting edge immunotherapy work done there.” The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation applauded the partnership due to Penn’s work with mesothelioma.
“We’ve had a long-standing partnership with Penn Medicine involving the work they’ve done in the field of mesothelioma,” the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation said on its Facebook page on Jan. 21. “We’re happy to see the cancer center at the forefront of the new initiative to find a cure with the spotlight on its work in immunotherapy.”
Penn Medicine is the home of Penn’s Mesothelioma and Pleural Program which, according to the website, “brings together internationally renowned experts in medical, surgical and radiation oncology and pulmonology who collaborate in the diagnosis, treatment and research of mesothelioma and pleural disease.”
Mesothelioma is diagnosed in approximately 3,000 people in the United States each year. The disease is incurable, though there are treatments that can improve the patients’ survival. Immunotherapy has recently taken the spotlight for treatment, with Keytruda and Opdivo, both anti-cancer drugs that boost the immune system, showing promise in the treatment of mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer typically affecting the lining of the lungs. Caused by exposure to airborne asbestos fibers, most cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed 30 years or more after exposure.
In 2011, Michele Carbone, M.D., Ph.D., former director of
the University of Hawaii Cancer Center, reported that more than 20 million people in the United States are at risk of developing malignant mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure. This moonshot initiative is critical for helping halt the onslaught of this disease.
“I know that we can help solidify a genuine global commitment to end cancer as we know it today — and inspire a new generation of scientists to pursue new discoveries and the bounds of human endeavor,” says Biden.