White House to invest $1b to cancer research

The biggest beneficiary of the spending will be the National Institutes of Health, which will get $195m this year. Photo / iStock
The biggest beneficiary of the spending will be the National Institutes of Health, which will get $195m this year. Photo / iStock

The White House said Monday that it will pump about $1 billion into new initiatives to speed up cancer research with the goal of making a decade's worth of progress in the next five years.

The biggest beneficiary of the spending will be the National Institutes of Health, which will get $195 million this year and the vast majority of the $755 million that the White House plans to spend in 2017. The Food and Drug Administration, the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs will receive smaller amounts of money focused on data research and broader cancer studies.

President Barack Obama announced the new effort to speed cancer research last month in his State of the Union address and put Vice President Joe Biden, whose son died of brain cancer last year, in charge of the effort. The White House effort, for now, is focused on speed and seizing opportunities over carefully laid out plans.

"We believe starting the moonshot now will allow us to capitalize on recent advances," said a senior administration official who spoke to reporters.

The White House said it would boost spending on immunotherapy, a promising field of treatment which seeks to activate the immune system to fight cancer cells. The White House also has promised to boost data sharing among researchers who in the past have tended to keep a close hold on their proprietary work. Other areas of focus include research to improve early cancer detection and efforts to develop a better understanding of the genetic changes that occur within a cancer cell.

Obama and Biden were scheduled to meet Monday with top administration officials taking part in the Cancer Moonshot Task Force to talk about the way forward. Some of the details of the White House effort, though, remain a work in progress.

Asked how the White House will measure progress towards its goals, a senior administration official told reporters that those details were still being studied.

"We're going to develop specific metrics in the coming weeks," the official said. "With something as big as cancer we have to think big. We need a new model."

To jump start new kinds of treatments the White House said it was launching the Vice President's Exceptional Opportunities in Cancer Research Fund. The fund would focus on "high-risk, high-return research" and "out-of-the-box thinking" that's often overlooked by traditional research channels, the official told reporters. But White House officials were reluctant to point to specific initiatives that the fund will target.

With only 11 months left in the administration, the White House focus seems to be on pressing forward as fast as possible. "The science is ready for the concerted new effort this initiative will deliver," the White House said in a press release.

- Washington Post

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