‘Cancer moonshot’ launch prep under way

Blueprint of recommendations expected in June

Biden with doctors

CANCER TOUR  Vice President Joe Biden (right) is visiting cancer research centers around the nation, including this one at the University of Pennsylvania, to get the president’s “cancer moonshot” ready to launch.

Official White House Photo by David Lienemann

When President Barack Obama called for a “cancer moonshot” during his State of the Union address, the idea was big on vision and low on specifics. The goal, he said, was to make America “the country that cures cancer once and for all.” Now, details are trickling out, but a true plan for launch won’t be ready until June.

In February, the White House released a list of cancer research areas to target. Many of those, such as therapeutic vaccines and cancer genomics, are already the subject of intense research. The administration also announced that the “moonshot initiative will begin immediately with $195 million in new cancer activities at the National Institutes of Health” this year. Not all of that money is moonshot money, though.

At a meeting on February 24 of the National Cancer Advisory Board, National Cancer Institute acting head Doug Lowy noted that $55 million of it was earmarked to jump-start the new cancer initiative. The rest would be divvied up among new research project grants ($80 million), given to 21 cancer research institutions ($10 million), and cover such costs as rent and utilities ($50 million). 

More money may be in the pipeline. The president’s proposed 2017 budget (which will face congressional hurdles) includes an extra $680 million for NCI, plus $75 million for the Food and Drug Administration to try to speed the progress of cancer clinical trials.

It’s not known how this new funding would be divvied up. A to-be-named panel of advisers will present recommendations in June.

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