(p. A15) Last Friday [January 8, 2016] a group of 15 cancer researchers cut short a meeting at the Food and Drug Administration. The reason: They had been invited to Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s office to discuss his “moonshot” to cure cancer.
. . .
The idea that a concerted government push can lead to a “cure” for cancer is nearly a half century old, stretching back to President Nixon’s failed “War on Cancer.” The latest, which President Obama formalized in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, has a deeply emotional tinge. Mr. Biden’s son Beau died of brain cancer in May, and the vice president’s very public mourning and call for a “national commitment to end cancer as we know it” as he announced his decision not to run for president has moved and captivated Washington.
. . .
Unlike in 1971, when President Nixon launched his cancer war, researchers now understand that cancer is not one disease but essentially hundreds. The very notion of a single cure — or as Mr. Obama put it, making “America the country that cures cancer once and for all” — is misleading and outdated.
“Cancer is way more complex than anyone had imagined in 1970,” said Dr. Jose Baselga, the president of the American Association for Cancer Research and physician in chief and chief medical officer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
. . .
Commitments by powerful Washington figures to cure cancer seem to come along about every decade.
Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, the director of the National Cancer Institute, announced in 2003 that his organization’s goal was to “eliminate suffering and death” caused by cancer by 2015.
During an appropriations hearing, Dr. von Eschenbach got into a public bargaining session with Senator Arlen Specter, then a Republican from Pennsylvania, about how much money Dr. von Eschenbach would need to advance the date of the cure.
“I asked you what it would take to move that date up to 2010,” Mr. Specter asked.
“We have proposed a budget that would support those initiatives that would amount to approximately $600 million a year,” Dr. von Eschenbach answered.
“Six-hundred million a year?” Mr. Specter asked. “And you can move the date from 2015 to 2010?”
“Yes, sir,” Mr. von Eschenbach said.
Mr. Specter died of cancer in 2012.
For the full story, see:
GINA KOLATA and GARDINER HARRIS. “‘Moonshot’ to Cure Cancer, to Be Led by Biden, Relies on Outmoded View of Disease.” The New York Times (Thurs., JAN. 14, 2016): A15.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date JAN. 13, 2016.)