- Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Vice President Joe Biden pushed expediting the cancer-drug approval process to a meeting of international cancer experts. The Cancer Moonshot roundtable included high profile oncologists and researchers, including Charles Sawyer from Memorial Sloan Kettering and Jennifer Doudna from UC Berkeley.
- Biden highlighted early progress towards this goal, explaining he has key players at the FDA, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and several pharma companies already on board.
- A key strategy in this initiative is fostering collaboration between drug companies so new cancer drugs can be tested in various combinations.
Over the last several years, drug-cancer approvals have increased and the time-to-approval has dropped. Much of this has happened under the watch of Richard Pazdur, head of cancer drugs at the FDA. Not only did he help to implement the the breakthrough drug designation, but he also made sure compassionate use provisions would allow dying patients to try experimental treatments. Pazdur's has said part of his passion for moving this process forward was watching his wife die of cancer in 2015.
Davos attendees responded positively to Biden's updates, with an especially strong response from the head of the NIH, Francis Collins. Collins is excited about the still-emerging potential of onco-immunotherapy to change the cancer treatment landscape.
Like Pazdur, Joe Biden has also been personally touched by cancer—his son Beau died last year of a brain tumor at age 46. While some may consider his 'cure cancer once and for all' approach as overly simplistic, the passion and know-how he brings to leveraging available resources and relationships will hopefully help advance cancer-related R&D.