By Olivia Perron, Currier Times Staff///
On Monday Sept. 12th, President Joseph Biden delivered a speech on his “Cancer Moonshot” initiative at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, on the anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s famous Moonshot speech. Biden announced the goal to reduce the cancer death rate by 50% over the next 25 years.
John F. Kennedy’s original Moonshot speech occurred on Sept. 12, 1962. In that historic speech, Kennedy said Americans should send astronauts to the moon before the end of the decade. That realization came true on July 20, 1969, but Kennedy would never see the result after being assassinated in 1963.
Biden said the 60th anniversary of Kennedy’s speech was a perfect time to defeat cancer.
“We face another inflection point. And together, we can choose to move forward with unity, hope, and optimism,” Biden said. “And I believe we can usher in the same unwillingness to postpone, the same national purpose that will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills to end cancer as we know it and even cure cancers once and for all.”
With the goal of improving the experience of people and their families living with and surviving cancer, Curry College assistant professor, Dr. Jessica Fry, said it was an exciting concept but there still needs to be caution.
“As a cancer researcher, I think the funding to put together large data sets and collective resources is amazing, and will allow us to make some leaps in treatment,” Fry said. “As a scientist and a citizen, I am concerned that these big splashy projects take away from the fact that Science funding has been decimated since 2008, grant pay lines are extremely low, and excellent projects aren’t getting funded because not enough money is in the system for basic research.”
Under the Cancer Moonshot initiative, the Biden- Harris Administration said they will specifically work on re-establishing White House Leadership, issuing a Call to Action on Cancer Screening and Early Detection, host a White House Cancer Moonshot Summit, build on a White House Cancer Roundtable Conversation Series, as well as require an All-Hands-On-Deck Approach, including work from the private sector, foundations, health care providers and everyday Americans.
Biden in his speech also outlined a Cancer Moonshot Scholar program for the next generation of scientists. Kaylee Walsh, a Curry College junior and Biochemistry major, said this program will spawn numerous medical advancements.
“I think it’ll change the medical field in drastic ways because if we can cure something as complex and inconsistent as cancer, it opens up doors to possible cures for other diseases,” said Walsh. “It also will drastically impact our technology in medicine and as for the public, there will be more hope towards curing illnesses that are deemed incurable.”
With his goal in mind of cutting the cancer death rate by 50% in the next 25 years Biden outlined more specifics included in this plan.
“To turn more cancers from death sentences into chronic diseases people can live with; to create a more supportive experience for our patients and families; and to update — to update our fight against cancer,” Biden said.
On the Curry campus, the Currier Times spoke with students who have been impacted by cancer. Sophomore Psychology major, Nicky Andrade, donates platelets on her own time so that those struggling with cancer and other medical conditions can have access to them. Cancer affects her mother’s best friend and Andrade makes an active attempt to do what she can.
“I started donating my platelets because my mom’s friend, who is a cancer patient, went to get some [platelets] and they told her they didn’t have any,” Andrade said. “She went in to get something to help her feel less pain and they didn’t have any to give her. I decided to donate mine as a way for me to help those who are dealing with cancer.”
Andrade was optimistic that new research could help save lives.
“This has an impact on my life,” she said. “And hopefully with more research it can bring more hope to those dealing with cancer and prevention will be amazing.”
Biden, who lost a son to cancer, said the path ahead may have obstacles, but it was no reason not to move ahead.
“I know we can do this together because I know this: There is nothing — nothing — nothing beyond our capacity if we work together as the United States of America.”
Contributing to this report from the JFK Library “Cancer Moonshot” speech, Chris Wilder CC8-TV and Michael Ouellette, WMLN-FM.