Vice President Joe Biden announced new partnerships, identified critical areas of focus and underscored progress made in just one year of President Obama's cancer "moonshot" on Monday.
Biden, whom Obama tapped last fall to oversee the initiative after the vice president passed on seeking the presidency for a third time, said that greater cooperation and consultation are key to achieving the next milestones in cancer research and treatment.
"There's a recognition that the cancer system of the 20th Century must be reimagined for the 21st Century to match the breakthroughs creating an inflection point in this fight," Biden wrote in a letter accompanying his summary and the task force's report.
"The mission of this cancer moonshot is not to start another war on cancer but to win the one President Nixon declared in 1971," Biden stated. "At that time, we didn't have the army organized, didn't have the military intelligence to know the enemy well, and, therefore didn't have the comprehensive strategy needed to launch a successful attack — now we do.
"Because of the progress over the last 45 years we have an army of researchers and oncologists, the powerful technologies and weapons, and immense public support and commitment to action," he wrote.
Biden said research has improved to the point that "we can now target and treat cancer cells with therapies that boost the immune system, that use low doses and new forms of radiation and more targeted chemotherapy."
He said those improvements could ultimately turn deadly cancers such as brain, liver and pancreatic cancer "into chronic, manageable diseases."
Biden said the biggest stumbling block he encountered is "a lack of coordination among efforts, a failure to share information both rapidly and effectively and an antiquated culture of research and funding."
To that end, the National Institutes of Health brought together "drug companies, major cancer research centers, foundations, and philanthropies to collaborate on early-stage research ... and to share all of the data with everyone.
"So instead of 20 companies each studying the same thing and not sharing the results, they'll be able to see each other's findings and build upon the results more quickly," Biden said. "The drug companies have realized this is in their interest and more are signing up."
He said the incentive structure also needs to be reorganized to prize cross-discipline and cross-sector collaboration over individual success.
Among new private commitments unveiled Monday is one between the National Cancer Institute, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft, which have agreed to "build a sustainable model for maintaining cancer genomic data in the cloud" that will be made available to cancer researchers.
The Defense Department and Environmental Protection Agency are opening their samples to researchers who will look for "connections between the earliest signs of cancer," which can advance researchers' knowledge of contributing environmental factors, among other things, Biden said.
What every cancer patient needs is "a little bit of hope," said Biden, who lost his son Beau to brain cancer last year.