The Cancer Moonshot Could Depend Most on You

In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama announced that Vice President Joe Biden would lead an effort toward a “moonshot” cure for cancer. More recently, Vice President Biden met with health care leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos to build momentum for the initiative, and later will meet with agency officials and Cabinet members about how the federal government can fund more research and treatment.

This is an ambitious task, to say the least, especially for a disease whose “cure” is often regarded as synonymous with an impossible dream.

Cancer kills more than half a million Americans every year — more than 1,600 every day. About half of men and a third of women will be diagnosed with the disease in their lifetimes.

As an oncologist, I have had to give my patients the terrifying news: “You have cancer.” Nearly 20 years ago, I heard those words myself when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I know firsthand how dramatically cancer alters a life whether you are the one diagnosed with the disease or know someone who is.

Despite the enormous complexity of cancer and resources required for a successful moonshot, I am optimistic. From a cure for polio to space exploration, our history is loaded with examples of achieving what was once considered impossible. After all, few foresaw a day when HIV/AIDS could be managed as a chronic disease or even prevented.

Society has already made great progress against cancer. For example, the rates at which some aggressive types of early stage breast cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma come back have been slashed in half. The American Cancer Society estimates that from 1991 to 2012, —> Read More