Remarks of Dr. Alondra Nelson at The White House Cancer Moonshot Goals Forum
As Prepared for Delivery at The White House
Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the White House. Thank you so much for joining us. I’m so glad to be with you for this important conversation.
As Dr. Carnival mentioned, I have the honor and privilege of leading the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, or OSTP — where we work to maximize the benefits of science and technology to advance health, prosperity, security, environmental quality, and justice for all Americans. And we’re proud to be the home of the Cancer Moonshot here at the White House.
It was almost 100 days ago — 98 to be exact — that President Joe Biden and the First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, reignited the Cancer Moonshot, with renewed White House leadership and a new set of bold, ambitious goals:
To reduce the cancer death rate by at least 50 percent over the next 25 years;
To improve the experience of patients and families living with and surviving cancer;
And by doing this and more, make progress toward ending cancer as we know it.
And since this is the White House — where “the first hundred days” has for decades been used as a yardstick of progress — it’s worth taking stock of what’s happened during these first hundred days of the Cancer Moonshot. Here’s what’s been accomplished to date:
On March 1, in the State of the Union address, the President highlighted the Cancer Moonshot as part of his Unity Agenda for America — as one of the four big challenges that we as a nation can tackle together, along with supporting our veterans, beating the opioid epidemic, and holding tech platforms accountable as part of addressing mental health.
On March 16, President Biden and Dr. Biden inaugurated the Cancer Cabinet, which includes senior White House officials, Cabinet secretaries, and leadership from across federal departments and agencies, all of whom are committed to working together through a whole-of-government approach to ending cancer as we know it. And we focused on setting our priorities for 2022 and beyond.
In the days and weeks that followed, there were new initiatives announced all across the Biden-Harris Administration.
The National Cancer Institute announced new efforts to connect underrepresented populations with clinical trials, and to create a new Cancer Moonshot Scholars program to invest in the next generation of diverse, innovative cancer researchers.
The Food and Drug Administration released guidance for cancer clinical trials to help make them more accessible for older adult patients, and to help expedite drug development to be more efficient for patients without compromising safety.
The Environmental Protection Agency began accelerating clean up at dozens of legacy Superfund sites, and is helping states replace lead pipes and service lines — which will protect millions of families from so-called “forever chemicals” and other contaminants that may increase people’s risk of getting certain cancers.
There were also new funding priorities in the first hundred days of the reignited Cancer Moonshot. For example, in the President’s budget for the next fiscal year, the Department of Agriculture is funding more research at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, on how nutrition can prevent or reduce the risk of cancer.
Additionally, the Department of Defense is expanding to all its hospitals a signature clinical research program, the Applied Proteogenomics Organizational Learning and Outcomes, or APOLLO network. They’re also expanding it to all cancer types.
The Department of Veterans Affairs added nine rare respiratory cancers to its list of presumed service-connected disabilities related to toxic exposure, so veterans with these cancers may now be eligible for health care and expedited disability claims.
At the Office of Science and Technology Policy this past month, we’ve held a series of Cancer Moonshot Equity Roundtables, as part of our commitment to ensure that every community in America — rural, urban, Tribal, and everywhere else — has opportunities and pathways to access cutting-edge cancer diagnostics, therapeutics, and clinical trials.
We heard two key messages loud and clear. One: we need to bring the cancer care system to people — to their neighborhoods and their community doctors. And two: so much is being asked of a family with a cancer diagnosis. They’ve got jobs, they’re parents with kids, they’re caring for their own parents — and on top of all that, they’re confronted with navigating the financial, emotional, and medical burden that cancer brings. We need to find ways to better support them with information, compassion, and guidance on how to take each step.
And even more has been happening: Two weeks ago, recognizing that 30% of cancer deaths today are related to smoking, the Food and Drug Administration proposed new rules to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars — to prevent cancer among the millions of American youth, young adults, and people of color who smoke them at higher rates.
Last week, the Cancer Cabinet departments and agencies held a series of 10 Community Conversations, as part of our commitment to learn from the experiences of more patients, healthcare providers, and advocates — which is essential to the President’s goal of improving the experiences of all patients and families.
And today, as you just heard from Danielle, we’re highlighting how the private sector is stepping up to support the Cancer Moonshot — beginning with new announcements on cancer screening and early detection, following President Biden’s and Dr. Biden’s call to action in February. For example:
- In Harlem, Washington, D.C. and three other cities, the Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation’s commitment to bring high-quality care is reducing disparities in access to cancer screening.
- In Appalachia and rural parts of Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama, mobile lung cancer screening and other services are expanding — through commitments from the Association of Community Cancer Centers and the GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer, with support from AstraZeneca, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, and Merck.
- In South Florida, the Promise Fund of Florida is doubling the reach of their “continuum of care” model that supports women from cancer screening through treatment.
- In Baltimore and D.C., a new partnership between the non-profits Family Reach and Nueva Vida is providing bilingual cancer navigation services to reach Latinas.
- In central Ohio, companies affiliated with the Columbus Partnership are supporting employees with the time and resources needed to get their recommended cancer screenings.
- And nationwide, new efforts from the American Cancer Society, the Cancer Support Community, the National Minority Quality Forum, and others are reaching communities with knowledge, support, and access to early cancer detection.
We are confident that these new initiatives will get people back to screening, which will save and extend lives.
But as I said, we are just getting started.
Today, we will continue to drive this progress forward. We will hear from Cancer Cabinet members, who will provide more updates on the progress made so far toward achieving the President’s goals. We’ve got an incredible team of leaders in science and policy taking this work forward.
We will also hear from several individuals who’ve reached out to share with us their stories of facing cancer, including Tamron Little, who is here today. You can hear more of these stories on whitehouse.gov/cancermoonshot.
Their stories are powerful, of course. They capture the fear, the injustice, and the deep sadness that are all part of how our nation experiences cancer today. But they also capture the hope, the motivation, and the ideas for how to change the way we tackle the cancer challenge.
All told, we’ve done a lot during the Cancer Moonshot’s first hundred days.
And part of why we’re here today, is to chart the next hundred days.
President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot goals are big and bold. They won’t be achieved overnight.
To get there, it will take all of us, working together, and working hard in every way we can to move the mission forward — just like we’ve done over the last hundred days: setting near-term goals, getting them done, then turning to what’s next.
Today, and especially this afternoon, we will begin to focus on what’s next — tackling challenges and answering questions like:
How can we address inequities by bringing innovative cancer care to communities?
What approaches can we take to accelerate progress on rare and deadly cancers, including pediatric cancers?
How can we best provide navigation support for every patient and family facing cancer, including guidance on the medical, financial, and psycho-social impacts of the disease?
And how can we drive innovation to bring effective targeted therapies to patients who can benefit from them?
It’s on us — all of us — to keep moving forward. The President has asked for everyone to be part of this effort. Because cancer affects everyone, everyone has a place on this team.
That’s why the most important part of today is your contribution.
Each of you — representing foundations, academic institutions, companies, healthcare providers — and of course, patients, families, and caregivers — you all have a vital role to play here.
Your work is important, and your perspectives are important. Please go to whitehouse.gov/cancermoonshot to add your voice to this mission.
Thank you, again, for being here with us today.