Working on a cure for cancer is emerging as a top initiative of President Obama’s final year in office. Since the formal announcement of the goal in the State of the Union address, the White House effort, under Vice President Joe Biden, has been moving fast. The VP convenes the first meeting of a special task force today, pulling together five federal departments and various other agencies and bodies. And just this morning, according to sources including the Washington Post the White House reported that it will request an extra $1 billion in funding in the next two years for its Cancer Moonshot initiative.
Such a funding increase would be a huge boost to research efforts. Funding for the National Cancer Institute (NIC, part of the National Institutes for Health and Human Services) has been relatively flat, and the institute has indicated that progress has slowed due to the tight resources. For perspective, Kennedy’s actual moonshot cost $20 billion in the 1960s and 1970s—over $130 billion in today’s dollars.
Unlike many Obama initiatives, this proposal may not be dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Congress. The House voted this summer for an extra $1.75 billion a year for five years for the NIH and $110 million a year for five years for the FDA by approving the 21st Century Cures Act, which is currently being considered in the Senate. This bill is for research and wider clinical testing for a wide variety of conditions, not just cancer; but bill sponsor Fred Upton, chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, has tweeted support for the Cancer Moonshot and task force.