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Washington - Biden Sees Politics Of Cancer World As Obstacle To A Cure

Published on: January 15, 2016 03:15 PM
By: AP
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U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, right, speaks during a meeting with Guatemala's president-elect Jimmy Morales in Guatemala City, Thursday, Jan 14, 2016. Biden is on a one day trip to attend Morales' presidential inauguration. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, right, speaks during a meeting with Guatemala's president-elect Jimmy Morales in Guatemala City, Thursday, Jan 14, 2016. Biden is on a one day trip to attend Morales' presidential inauguration. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

Washington - Four weeks after announcing he wouldn’t run for president, Joe Biden returned to the world-renowned cancer center in Texas where doctors had tried to save his son’s life.

Officially, the vice president was in Houston to speak about infrastructure spending and raise money for Democrats. Left off of his public schedule was a meeting with Dr. Ronald DePinho, president of MD Anderson Cancer Center, whose Moon Shots Program has set out to end the dreaded disease.

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Since declaring his own “moonshot” to cure cancer three months ago, Biden researched what’s holding back a cure, searching for answers with all the meticulousness of a physician diagnosing disease. His conclusion: The hold-up, in large part, lies in the cancer world itself.

“My grandpop used to say, ‘Joey, there’s three kinds of politics’ ” — church politics, labor politics and regular politics, Biden recalled recently, before adding one of his own. “Well, there’s four kinds. There’s cancer politics.”

He deemed that particular brand even more vexing than the rest.

As one of his final acts in office, Biden has resolved to “break down silos” he says are pervasive throughout the sprawling and fragmented world of oncologists, scientists and benefactors. Meetings with nearly 200 of them revealed a community rife with competition, territorialism and resistance to information-sharing that’s left researchers and their discoveries cloistered in their own corners, aides and others who met with Biden said.

Asked how Americans could help, Biden minced no words: “Demand collaboration from the scientific community,” he wrote on Twitter.

Biden, who will kick off his initiative Friday with a tour and discussion at Philadelphia’s Abramson Cancer Center, has yet to lay out exactly what he’ll do over the next 12 months that hasn’t been done in the half century since Richard Nixon declared war on cancer.

But advisers said in addition to pushing for more funding, Biden would use his influence to encourage data-sharing about patients and treatment outcomes, so researchers from various institutions can better build on each other’s work. A key focus will be promising advances in immunotherapy, which uses the immune system to attack tumors, and “precision medicine,” which personalizes treatments based on the genetic makeup of a patient’s tumors.

For Biden, the emotional undertones of his mission are difficult to avoid. After his 46-year-old son, Beau Biden, died from brain cancer in May, Biden entered a period of painfully public mourning, followed eventually by his decision against getting into the presidential race.

“This is still a blow that he’s still recovering from,” said former Sen. Ted Kaufman, a Biden confidante for many decades. “He’s in his problem-solving mode. He’s more comfortable in this area because of his desire to eliminate this thing that caused him so much damage.”

Biden is not a doctor, nor a medical researcher. So when he announced a bid “to cure cancer,” more than a few eyebrows were raised. Some wondered whether Biden was raising expectations in a way he could later regret.

“I’m an eternal optimist, but I’m not going to go around saying we’re going to cure cancer in five years. That’s just not realistic,” said Dr. George Demetri, a Harvard Medical School professor and researcher at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute who met with Biden’s staff. “There’s a fine line between having big, hairy, audacious goals and realistic goals, so the public doesn’t come back and say in five years, ‘Hey, you didn’t deliver on that, pal.’ “

Even President Barack Obama, quizzed by a fourth-grader, said Thursday that cancer “probably won’t be cured in my lifetime, but I think it’ll be cured in yours.”

Immense progress has been made in recent years. Survival rates for most cancers are increasing, although the American Cancer Society still predicts nearly 1.7 million new cancer cases this year and nearly 600,000 deaths.

In a blog post this week coinciding with Obama’s State of the Union address, Biden offered a more measured but still ambitious goal for himself: to double the rate of progress so that researchers make 10 years of progress in what would normally take five. “This is our moonshot,” he said.

Because cancer takes hundreds of forms, it can’t be eradicated by any single advance. Cancer researchers who met with Biden recently said he was intrigued by the possibilities for improving prevention and early detection.

Skewing typical partisan divides, the issue also offers rare prospects for Democrats and Republicans to make common cause in Obama and Biden’s last year. Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, worked directly with Biden last month to secure a long-awaited funding boost for the National Institutes of Health, including $260 million for cancer.

“What does ‘cure cancer’ mean? Does it mean prevent cancer? Does it mean nobody dies from cancer? I don’t know about that,” Blunt said in an interview. “But I do know that we can enhance dramatically the way we look at cancer, understand cancer and deal with it.”



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Read Comments (8)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Jan 15, 2016 at 04:16 PM politics blocks progress in autism Says:

Anybody that starts to do research or achieve status in autism related research knows; POLITICS RULE and RUIN. Starting the wrong discussion blacklists you and dries up funding.

2

 Jan 16, 2016 at 08:21 PM Too familiar Says:

With the billions spent on research there is no excuse for not having a cure. Do people in the research business have something to lose if they share a cure?

3

 Jan 16, 2016 at 09:22 PM pushkin Says:

Reply to #2  
Too familiar Says:

With the billions spent on research there is no excuse for not having a cure. Do people in the research business have something to lose if they share a cure?

Yes, a lot of revenue from people that are suffering r"l.

4

 Jan 16, 2016 at 09:23 PM Politics of Medicine Says:

We need not "search" for a cure.

The cure already exists in many different forms but USA politics governed by the FDA and the American Cancer S. And by the AMA shuns, suppresses and denies the existence of countless forms of Alternative Healing Methods which are far more effective than the "approved" allopathic Failure of the current system in the U S A.

The politics of medicine in America is not only for cancer but undermines and shuns all alternative therapies across the board.

The only ones "funded" for research ? millions of $ goes only to the current failed system and zero funding goes to the far more effective alternative healing.

No wonder they never found a cure and they never will in the future, either because they are climbing up the wrong tree and searching for a non existent pie in the sky which will of course never be found because you can't find something which does not exist.

5

 Jan 17, 2016 at 01:57 AM Anonymous Says:

Cancer is not a single disease. It is really a class of different diseases that share characteristics but that have different causes, symptoms, and effects. There is no single brain cancer, but many different types. Thus, there will not be a silver bullet that cures cancer. There have been (leukemia, for example) and will continue to be breakthroughs for some forms of cancer; others will elude us for years, maybe forever, no matter how much money and effort we put into finding a solution.

6

 Jan 17, 2016 at 01:59 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #4  
Politics of Medicine Says:

We need not "search" for a cure.

The cure already exists in many different forms but USA politics governed by the FDA and the American Cancer S. And by the AMA shuns, suppresses and denies the existence of countless forms of Alternative Healing Methods which are far more effective than the "approved" allopathic Failure of the current system in the U S A.

The politics of medicine in America is not only for cancer but undermines and shuns all alternative therapies across the board.

The only ones "funded" for research ? millions of $ goes only to the current failed system and zero funding goes to the far more effective alternative healing.

No wonder they never found a cure and they never will in the future, either because they are climbing up the wrong tree and searching for a non existent pie in the sky which will of course never be found because you can't find something which does not exist.

While there may be alternatives that work, and more should be tested, most are simple quackery. I know people who impoverished themselves taking a child with incurable cancer to a well-known alternative physician. As with every single one of his patients, the boy died after his family paid tens of thousands of dollars. Science works. We simply have to remove the obstacles to testing all types of potential therapies.

7

 Jan 17, 2016 at 12:58 PM Anonymous Says:

Cancer is not one thing. There are hundreds of different diseases included in that one word. That's why no cure has been found. It's like wondering why there is no cure for all "neuromuscular diseases" (dystrophies, ALS, MS etc)... Way too many in the category.
But ALL- one type of childhood cancer? Huge advances where most kids are cured these days vs 30 years ago.

8

 Jan 17, 2016 at 02:18 PM Anonymous Says:

#6 - you are painfully correct. There is nearly no research on alternative therapies. In fact, there is even less known on the interactions between supplements/vitamins etc., with each other, and with both OTC and prescription medications. Yet the market for this stuff capitalizes on the "natural" aspect, and sucks in a lot of gullible people. Poskim have already written about the issurim involved in subjecting a Yid to these completely unproven interventions. There is so much danger involved. How many of these supplements actually contain what the labels claim? The track record is not good. Oilem goilem, but it is neither funny nor safe.

9

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