SOTU: Obama Stumps for Effort To Find Cancer Cure, Defends ACA
Obama said Vice President Biden, who last year indicated he would focus on cancer research for the remainder of his term, will lead the initiative (Gaudiano, USA Today, 1/12). Obama noted, "Last year, Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer," adding, "Tonight, I'm announcing a new national effort to get it done" (The Hill, 1/12). He continued, "Let's make America the country that cures cancer once and for all."
Obama cited a $2 billion funding increase for NIH that was included in a spending plan he signed into law last month (Muchmore, Modern Healthcare, 1/12). As a result, American Association for Cancer Research Policy Director Jon Retzlaff said the National Cancer Institute, which is part of NIH, saw a funding boost of more than 5% (USA Today, 1/12).
Biden Outlines Initiative's Focus
Biden said his primary focus under the initiative will be to:
- Increase public and private funding for cancer research; and
- Eliminate barriers that prevent researchers from sharing data (The Hill, 1/12).
According to USA Today, Biden and his staff over the past several months have participated in several "listening sessions" to gauge the current state of cancer research and treatments. Biden in a statement said cancer research and treatments are "on the cusp of incredible breakthroughs." However, he noted that science, research and data are "trapped in silos, preventing faster progress and greater reach to patients" (USA Today, 1/12).
Further, Biden said he plans later this month to convene the "first of several" meetings with the administration to discuss the effort. He added that he will continue to meet with cancer researchers, advocates and other leaders in the field.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said, "The talk of a 'moonshot' is the exact mindset we need." He added, "We welcome every voice, including the president's and vice president's, to the conversation as we work to get 21st Century Cures across the finish line" (The Hill, 1/12). The 21st Century Cures Act (HR 6) aims to accelerate the development and regulatory approval of medical innovations (California Healthline, 5/21/15).
According to The Hill, some Republican lawmakers criticized Obama for not mentioning GOP efforts to help secure the NIH funding boost.
For example, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who oversees funding for federal health departments on the House Appropriations Committee, said, "That was actually a Republican initiative he's taking a little bit of credit for" (The Hill, 1/12).
Meanwhile, some cancer experts said the new initiative likely will include various smaller efforts rather than a single "moonshot" approach.
Jose Baselga, president of AARC and CMO at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, said, "A single approach to cancer ... ain't going to happen," adding, "Cancer, we've learned, is far more complex than we've ever imagined."
Still, cancer specialists said there are several ideas -- such as a database of diagnostic and treatment information from all cancer patients -- that could help to advance the effort (Bernstein, Washington Post, 1/12).
Obama Defends ACA
Obama also defended the Affordable Care Act during his speech, the Washington Times reports.
Obama noted that so far 18 million U.S. residents have gained coverage under the law, adding, "And in the process, health care inflation has slowed, and our businesses have created jobs every single month since it became law."
Obama said the ACA is "about filling the gaps in employer-based care so that when you lose a job, or you go back to school, or you strike out and launch that new business, you'll still have coverage" (Howell, Washington Times, 1/12).
In the Republican response to Obama's address, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) called the ACA "disastrous" and argued that the law has limited access to health coverage and providers (Modern Healthcare, 1/12).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.