National Cancer Moonshot Initiative
Vice President Joe Biden, leader of the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative, addresses attendees at the AACR Annual Meeting 2016.

Bringing AACR Thought Leadership to the Moonshot

AACR President (2015-2016) José Baselga and AACR CEO Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc) present Vice President Joe Biden (accompanied by Dr. Jill Biden) with a plaque commemorating his induction as an honorary member of the AACR. Citation: The Board of Directors of the American Association for Cancer Research proudly inducts Vice President Joe Biden as an Honorary Member of the AACR in recognition of his extraordinary national leadership and contributions to cancer research to accelerate the prevention and cure of all cancers.

The progress and promise of cancer research were focal points of the national conversation throughout 2016—and the AACR was the authoritative voice in that conversation. The discussion was sparked by Vice President Joe Biden, whose son, Beau, died of brain cancer in May 2015. In October of that year, Biden announced that he would forgo a run for the presidency in order to dedicate his energy to “a moonshot in this country to cure cancer... an absolute national commitment to end cancer as we know it today.”

Inspired by the vice president’s passion, President Obama announced the launch of the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative in his January 2016 State of the Union address and appointed Biden to lead it. Galvanized by this challenge from the White House, the cancer research community spent 2016 engaging with the vice president to determine how national resources could best be applied to foster a decade’s worth of progress against cancer in five years.

Even before the announcement of the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative, the AACR provided thought leadership to the White House on the current state of cancer research, on ways to advance regulatory science to speed innovation, on efforts to make more therapies available to more patients, and on the importance of cancer prevention and detection. Since the launch of Biden's initiative, AACR members, leaders, and staff have worked to shape and realize the vice president's vision.

Timeline: The AACR’s Support of the Cancer Moonshot

  • January 8: AACR Leaders Visit Vice President's Office. The week before the State of the Union Address, a group of 15 AACR members—led by 2015-2016 AACR President José Baselga, MD, PhD, FAACR, and comprising several AACR board members and leaders from 10 of the top cancer centers and medical institutions in the U.S.—met with Vice President Biden’s senior staff. The agenda included a discussion of the state of cancer research and the vice president’s commitment to ending cancer.
  • January 12: President Obama Announces Cancer Moonshot Initiative. During his State of the Union Address, President Obama announced the launch of a "new national effort" to cure cancer. He also stated that the initiative would be led by Vice President Biden.
  • January 19: AACR Leaders Participate in “A Call to Action.” Vice President Biden convened a special session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Titled "Cancer Moonshot: A Call to Action," the session brought together international leaders in the cancer community to discuss opportunities to advance the pace of progress in the fight against cancer. The panel discussion, moderated by NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, featured the 2015-2016 president of the AACR, José Baselga, MD, PhD, FAACR, and two AACR past presidents, Charles L. Sawyers, MD, FAACR, and Nobel Laureate Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD, FAACR. Vice President Biden highlighted the importance of data-sharing initiatives to the mission of the Moonshot, citing AACR Project GENIE during his opening remarks at the session.

I believe we need a moonshot in this country to cure cancer[,] ... an absolute national commitment to end cancer as we know it today.  ”
Vice President Joe Biden

  • April 4: AACR Members Are Appointed to Blue Ribbon Panel The NCI established a Blue Ribbon Panel to inform the scientific direction and goals under the vice president's national cancer initiative. The panel was established as a working group of the presidentially appointed National Cancer Advisory Board to provide scientific guidance from thought leaders in the cancer community. The 28-member panel included 20 members of the AACR, including two past presidents, three fellows of the AACR Academy, and three members of the board of directors. The AACR also hosted one of the first meetings of the panel at AACR Annual Meeting 2016.
  • April 20: Vice President Biden Addresses AACR Annual Meeting. Vice President Biden addressed more than 4,000 attendees at the closing of the AACR Annual Meeting 2016, thanking the assembled researchers for devoting their lives to cancer research and encouraging them to share their ideas to accelerate progress against cancer. Biden discussed the importance of removing barriers, fostering collaboration, and realigning incentives in cancer research to better serve patients.
  • June 1: AACR Provides Guidance to Blue Ribbon Panel. The AACR organized a special session that connected AACR leaders—including young and early-stage investigators and minority researchers—with members of the NCI Blue Ribbon Panel. Moderated by 2016-2017 AACR President Nancy E. Davidson, MD, the session gave these underrepresented members of the cancer research community an opportunity to share their perspectives with the panel.
  • June 28: AACR Hosts Congressional Briefing. To inform lawmakers about the progress of the Cancer Moonshot Initiative, the AACR hosted a congressional briefing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Titled "Seizing Today's Opportunities to Accelerate Cancer Research," the briefing featured remarks by AACR CEO Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), AACR President Nancy Davidson, MD, and NCI Acting Director Douglas Lowy, MD. The briefing also featured a panel discussion in which five early-career investigators discussed ways to achieve the Moonshot's goal of accomplishing a decade's worth of progress against cancer in five years.
  • June 29: AACR Leaders Attend Cancer Moonshot Summit. AACR President Nancy E. Davidson, MD (right), and CEO Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc) participated in the Cancer Moonshot Summit at the White House. During the summit, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it would establish an Oncology Center of Excellence (OCE) and appointed Richard Pazdur, MD, as its acting director. On behalf of the AACR membership, Drs. Davidson and Foti applauded the announcement and called for the FDA to appoint Dr. Pazdur as the OCE's permanent director.
  • September 7: Blue Ribbon Panel Report Is Released. The Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel released its report during the National Cancer Institute’s National Cancer Advisory Board Meeting. The report outlined 10 programs and initiatives "that are poised for acceleration and that could unleash new cancer breakthroughs if implemented." The AACR expressed its support for the report's recommendations and called on Congress and the administration to begin the work of securing the funding necessary to support these significant scientific opportunities.
  • October 17: President Obama Receives Moonshot Report. Vice President Biden delivered the Cancer Moonshot report to President Obama in the Oval Office and presented it to the American public. In a ceremony at the White House, the vice president and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, also addressed individuals representing the federal and private sector cancer communities, many of whom contributed new efforts to advance progress toward Moonshot goals. CEO Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), represented the AACR's members and leadership at the event.
  • December 7: Funding Is Approved for the “Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot.” Funding for the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative was secured when the U.S. Senate approved the 21st Century Cures Act. President Obama signed the Act into law on December 13, in a ceremony attended by AACR CEO Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc). The legislation establishes an NIH Innovation Account that includes $1.8 billion in supplemental funding over seven years to fund Moonshot projects and initiatives. The first installment of $300 million from 21st Century Cures has been provided as part of the fiscal year 2017 continuing resolution. An amendment to the legislation prior to Senate approval renamed the cancer portion of the law the Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot in honor of the vice president’s son, Beau.
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