On April 3, the Biden administration released a National Cancer Plan that seeks to coordinate government, research, and the biotech industry to cut cancer deaths in half by 2047.
The plan is described by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as building on President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot initiative. It is called a natural progression in the government’s efforts to address cancer.
Established by law in 1937, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) was tasked in 1971 with developing the National Cancer Program to coordinate cancer research. Today, public and private cancer research creates a “far more complex ecosystem than was imagined in 1971,” according an introduction to the plan.
The plan’s goals
The plan enables the target of more and better cancer survival set by Biden’s Cancer Moonshot initiative, with strategies for achieving eight goals:
- Prevent Cancer with proven strategies to reduce risk.
- Detect Cancers Early so they can be treated early.
- Develop Effective Treatments with minimum side effects that are accessible to everyone and treat rare cancers too.
- Eliminate Inequities through equitable access to screening and care.
- Deliver Optimal Care with evidence-based, patient-focused treatment that prioritizes prevention.
- Engage Every Person by sharing knowledge and eliminating barriers to access.
- Maximize Data Utility through secure sharing of data that can help research while ensuring privacy.
- Optimize the Workforce with a diverse group of professionals who can deliver the care needed.
The plan outlines a public-private partnership of government, academia, and the biotech industry. This includes federal agencies, led by the NCI, and all other sectors of society, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NCI’s own research infrastructure includes cancer centers, clinical trial initiatives, the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research, and data initiatives.
Funding for biotech comes through NCI’s funding for “extramural” support for private research that fuels biotech innovation.
What biotech’s already doing
The biotech industry invests more than anyone in cancer research. In 2021, total U.S. cancer R&D spending was approximately $56.8 billion, with $44.8 billion from private sources and $11.9 billion from public sources, according to a University of Chicago report.
But drug price controls, like those contained in the Inflation Reduction Act and proposed in Biden’s 2024 budget plan can be expected to harm the quest for a better treatment. According to the University of Chicago study, price controls would reduce cancer R&D spending by 31%, almost 10 times the anticipated increase from the Cancer Moonshot, by dampening the appetite for investment.