President Joe Biden is committing to reduce the cancer death rate by 50% — a new goal for the "moonshot" initiative against the disease that was announced in 2016 when he was vice president.
Biden has set a 25-year timeline for achieving that goal, part of his broader effort to end cancer as we know it, according to senior administration officials who previewed Wednesday's announcement on the condition of anonymity.
The issue is deeply personal for Biden: He lost his elder son, Beau, to brain cancer in 2015.
The pain experienced by the president is shared by many Americans. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 1,918,030 new cancer cases and 609,360 cancer deaths this year. What Biden is aiming to do is essentially save more than 300,000 lives annually from the disease, something the administration believes is possible because the age-adjusted death rate has already fallen by roughly 25% over the past two decades. The cancer death rate is currently 146 per 100,000 people, down from nearly 200 in 2000.
Dr. Barron Lerner, a professor of medicine and population health at New York University Langone Health, said that "hyperbolic goals" can be needed to attract public attention but achieving the 50% reduction is "extremely unlikely."
"Similar past efforts like the 'War on Cancer' have made gains, but they have been more modest," said Lerner, the author "The Breast Cancer Wars." "Cancer is many diseases and requires very complicated research. Translating these advances to the clinical setting is never easy either."