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Biden to tout next steps on ‘Cancer Moonshot’ in speech at JFK library

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will announce new steps to expand on his administration’s “Cancer Moonshot” initiative to prevent deaths from the disease in a speech Monday afternoon at the John F. Kennedy library in Boston.

In his remarks, which come on the 60th anniversary of Kennedy’s speech on his goal of putting a man on the moon, Biden will announce he’s naming longtime science adviser Renee Wegrzyn as the inaugural director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, which he created in March. The agency’s mission is to improve the federal government’s ability to foster health and biomedical research.

President Joe Biden speaks in the East Room of the White House on Sept. 7, 2022.Mandel Ngan / AFP – Getty Images

“Under Dr. Wegrzyn’s leadership, ARPA-H will support programs and projects that undertake challenges ranging from the molecular to the societal, with the potential to transform entire areas of medicine and health in order to prevent, detect, and treat some of the most complex diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and cancer, providing benefits for all Americans,” the White House said.

Biden will also sign an executive order that aims to boost biotechnology and biomanufacturing to ensure that cutting-edge technologies like those needed to fight cancer will be developed and made in the U.S., the White House said.

The president is also expected to highlight progress made by the “Cancer Cabinet” advisory group he formed earlier this year, including actions to close the screening gap, address environmental exposure, decrease the impact of preventable cancers and bring the latest research to patients and communities. The cabinet, for example, is announcing that the health care and climate legislation Biden signed last month will reduce the cost of prescription drugs for cancer patients.

For example, researchers found that a drug used to treat prostate cancer, Zytiga, had an expected out-of-pocket cost in 2019 of more than $8,000 a year, but seniors and others who take the drug could save more than $6,000 a year under the new law, the White House said in a release.

The National Cancer Institute also started a national trial to help identify blood tests to detect cancers, which would provide a less-invasive method of early detection.

The administration is also taking steps to invest in the next generation of cancer researchers, study the role of telehealth in cancer prevention, and examine how toxic exposures could lead to cancers in members of the military. Biden has said he believes the brain cancer that killed his son Beau in 2015 was linked to exposure to burn pits during his deployment to Iraq.

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