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White House gathers $1B 'Moonshot' task force to fight cancer

By Doug G. Ware   |   Feb. 1, 2016 at 5:47 PM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama's administration on Monday formally launched a project intended to fight cancer by dedicating more federal resources to research, detection and treatment.

The initiative enlists the work of the Cancer Moonshot Task Force, a panel created by the administration that is chaired by Vice President Joe Biden. Monday, the panel held its first meeting.

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"During his final State of the Union, the President put me in charge of a new national commitment to ending cancer as we know it," Biden said Monday. "We're calling it a 'Moonshot,' and that's because I believe that this effort, like President Kennedy's call to land on the moon 55 years ago, is truly a call to humankind -- to be bold and do big things."

Among other things, the project requests substantial federal funding -- around $1 billion -- to enable the National Institutes of Health and other government agencies to spearhead new research, cancer treatments and detection methods.

The funds have been officially requested in Obama's 2016 budget.

Some of the agencies involved in the project include the Food and Drug Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Energy.

"Our job is to clear out the bureaucratic hurdles -- and let science happen," Biden said.

"Through research, we have an opportunity to substantially reduce cancers caused by viral infections, such as HPV," Dr. Doug Lowy, director of the National Cancer Institute, tweeted during a question-and-answer session online Monday.

"The initiative would also focus on cancer vaccines, including preventive and treatment vaccines," he said in another tweet.

The primary goal of the Cancer Moonshot project is to accelerate existing research in the lab and hopefully reach treatments sooner than scientists otherwise would have.

"Moonshot metaphor may have limitations but we are at a moment where dramatic acceleration of progress is possible," Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, tweeted during the Q&A session.

"Inspirational way to start the week -- joining [Biden] for first Task Force meeting of the Cancer Moonshot initiative," he added.

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