In an emotional speech, Vice President Joe Biden urged the 30,000 oncologists attending the American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual conference to work together in the search for a cure for cancer.
Biden called for more collaboration among among oncologists and researchers and easier access to clinical trials and expanded databases.
“No one can find the answer on his or her own,” Biden said. “I need your help—we can do much better than we do.”
Tapped this year by President Barack Obama to lead the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative, Biden lamented the fragmentation of data and urged oncologists to unite and share research concerning clinical trials and electronic health records to better understand cancers and effective treatment options.
He cited ASCO's CancerLinQ initiative, which analyzes the health records from cancer patients at 58 oncology practices. He said the program should be expanded to include all oncology practices so data is easily accessible across channels.
Biden also called for an overhaul of the current clinical trial enrollment system, which is often time-consuming for physicians and difficult for patients to qualify. An estimated 3% of cancer patients are currently enrolled in clinical trials. He suggested eliminating certain barriers that prevent a patient's participation and expanding the number of institutions that offer trials.
“We need to maintain a broad availability of trials,” Biden said.
Biden repeatedly asserted that data holds the key to finding a cure for cancer. He applauded the Genomic Data Commons facility at the University of Chicago, which will provide physicians with access to genomic datasets that have been standardized. The program currently includes data from the National Cancer Institute and National Institutes of Health, including the Cancer Genome Atlas and Target, or Therapeutically Applicable Research to Generate Effective Treatments. Biden said all oncology research should be included in the Genomic Data Commons database so all physicians have access to the best data.
Robert Grossman, principal investigator for the Genomic Data Commons, said researchers will be able to contribute to the database, which includes 12,000 patients thus far. The database will also be available to oncologists after they register with the NIH. Grossman, who has built databases over the last 10 years, agreed with Biden that data is “essential to finding a cure" for cancer.
“We need to use every weapon at our disposal,” Biden said. “It requires somewhat of a chance in mindset—it requires a lot more openness.”