Who Started the Cancer Moonshot? Tracing the Origins of the Ambitious Initiative

The cancer moonshot – an ambitious initiative to accelerate cancer research and ultimately find a cure – was launched by none other than the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. With a goal of bringing together government, industry, and academia to make unprecedented progress in cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, the initiative was founded in 2016 and has since been making waves in the scientific community.

The inspiration for the cancer moonshot came from Vice President Joe Biden, who suffered the loss of his son Beau to brain cancer in 2015. Determined to make a difference and honor his son’s legacy, Biden spearheaded the moonshot effort along with President Obama. He was motivated by the idea of providing hope and improving the chances for cancer patients and their families, who too often face a devastating diagnosis with few options and little hope.

Since the moonshot’s inception, there have been major strides made in cancer research and treatment, including breakthroughs in immunotherapy and new targeted therapies. Although there is still much work to be done, the cancer moonshot has brought renewed energy and resources to the fight against cancer, and has given hope to millions of people affected by the disease.

The History of Cancer Research

Cancer has been a scourge for humanity for millennia. Ancient Egyptians first described cases of breast cancer in 1600 BC and a Greek physician, Hippocrates, identified and named cancer in 400 BC. Throughout history, many researchers and scientists have made critical contributions to the field of cancer research. Here are some of the key milestones in the history of cancer research:

  • In 1845, physician John Hill described the lymphatic system’s role in cancer spread, calling it “the natural system of drainage.”
  • In 1866, Dr. Paul Ehrlich observed that some cells stained differently than others and created the technique of immunostaining for detecting cancer cells.
  • In 1961, the first known cancer-causing virus was discovered by John Martin and Peyton Rous, which led to the conception of the concept of oncogenes.

Since then, cancer research has continued to evolve. The National Cancer Institute was established in 1937 to coordinate cancer research efforts, and in 1971, the National Cancer Act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon. The act allocated significant funding to cancer research and established the Cancer Centers Program, which designated cancer centers to conduct research and provide patient care.

One of the most significant recent developments in cancer research has been the Cancer Moonshot initiative. In 2016, President Barack Obama announced the initiative, which aims to accelerate cancer research and make more therapies available to patients. The initiative aims to achieve ten years of progress in just five years by focusing on areas such as immunotherapy, genomics, and data sharing.

The Cancer Moonshot

The Cancer Moonshot initiative was spearheaded by former Vice President Joe Biden after his son, Beau, died of brain cancer in 2015. The initiative has received significant funding from the federal government and private organizations, with over $1.8 billion allocated to cancer research since its launch.

The Cancer Moonshot aims to accomplish several goals, including:

  • Accelerating cancer research to make more therapies available to patients.
  • Enhancing prevention and early detection efforts to reduce cancer rates.
  • Expanding patient access to care and clinical trials.
  • Improving data sharing and collaboration among scientists and researchers.
Area of Focus Description
Immunotherapy Developing treatments that harness the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells.
Genomics Studying the genetic makeup of cancer cells to better understand their behavior and develop targeted therapies.
Precision Medicine Using a patient’s genetic information to tailor treatment to their specific cancer type and subtype.

The Cancer Moonshot has already made significant progress in cancer research. For example, in 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first gene therapy for leukemia, which was developed with the help of Cancer Moonshot funding. The initiative has also funded several clinical trials that are testing new immunotherapy approaches.

The Role of Government in Cancer Research

Cancer is a disease that affects millions of people worldwide. Research into cancer is essential to find effective treatments and ultimately a cure. The role of government in cancer research is critical, and it has been instrumental in driving forward progress.


  • Government funding for medical research is a significant source of support for cancer research.
  • To date, the U.S. Government has invested billions of dollars in cancer research and continues to do so through the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
  • Government-funded research has helped identify new cancer treatments, improved diagnosis, and provided better understanding of cancer biology.


Government agencies like the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) play a crucial role in regulating cancer drugs, therapies, and clinical trials. Without the FDA, it would be challenging to regulate the safety and efficacy of drugs and medical procedures to ensure that they are safe and effective for patients. Government regulations ensure that cancer treatments undergo rigorous testing and clinical trials before they are available for public use. This can help to reduce the risks of harmful side effects and improve the chances of success.


The government also serves as a facilitator for collaboration and cooperation among researchers, cancer centers, and other stakeholders in cancer research. The NCI brings together cancer research centers from across the country to collaborate on research projects. This ensures that new discoveries are shared, and the progress made in one area of cancer research is communicated to other areas, accelerating progress. Government agencies also collaborate with other countries on research projects, which can help to speed up the development of new treatments.

Research Programs

Government-funded research programs like the Cancer Moonshot Initiative, launched in 2016 by former Vice President Joe Biden, have been instrumental in advancing cancer research. The initiative set out to accelerate the pace of research and make more therapies available to more patients by leveraging technology and encouraging collaboration. The initiative helped bring researchers and oncologists together to share data and identify areas for research. This project received significant funding from the government and has led to many breakthroughs in cancer research.

Year Initiative Budget
2016 Cancer Moonshot $1.8 billion
2003 National Cancer Moonshot $3.1 billion

The government plays a vital role in cancer research through funding, regulation, collaboration, and research programs. Cancer research would not be as advanced as it is today without the support of the government.

Impact of Cancer on Society

Cancer is a disease that impacts not only the individual, but society as a whole. The toll that cancer takes on families, the healthcare system, and the economy is immense.

The Cancer Moonshot: Who Started It?

  • The Cancer Moonshot initiative was first announced by former President Barack Obama in his 2016 State of the Union address.
  • The initiative aimed to accelerate cancer research, increase access to treatment, and ultimately find a cure for cancer.
  • A task force, headed by former Vice President Joe Biden, was created to oversee the initiative and bring together experts from various fields to collaborate on research and treatment strategies.

The Economic Impact of Cancer

The economic impact of cancer is staggering. According to the National Cancer Institute, cancer care costs in the United States are expected to reach $156 billion by 2020. This includes direct medical costs such as treatments and hospital stays, as well as indirect costs such as lost productivity and premature death.

Cancer can also have long-term financial implications for survivors and their families. The cost of ongoing medical care, lost wages, and diminished quality of life can be significant.

The Worldwide Impact of Cancer: A Global Table of Statistics

Statistic Global Total Low-Income Countries High-Income Countries
New Cancer Cases (2018) 18.1 Million 57% 43%
Cancer Deaths (2018) 9.6 Million 65% 35%
5-Year Cancer Survival Rate (2005-2017) 67% 47% 80%

Cancer is a global issue that affects people in both low-income and high-income countries. While cancer incidence rates are higher in high-income countries, the death rates are higher in low-income countries due to a lack of access to early detection, diagnosis, and treatment. However, the 5-year survival rate for all cancers combined has improved over the past decade, giving hope that through continued research and advancements in treatment, cancer can become a more manageable disease.

Advances in Cancer Treatment Technology

The field of cancer treatment has seen rapid advancement in the recent past. These advancements are vital in the war against cancer given how many lives cancer affects. Cancer treatments that were previously unavailable or unaffordable are now accessible to patients. Patients can now seek treatment and receive a cancer diagnosis at an earlier stage, when cancer is easily treatable. As such, the demand for cancer treatments has significantly increased. Below are some of the advances in cancer treatment technology.

  • Immunotherapy: This is a treatment that stimulates the body’s immune system to detect and destroy cancer cells. It can be used to treat almost every type of cancer. For instance, the use of immune checkpoint inhibitors in melanoma patients has proved to be highly successful in fighting the disease.
  • Gene therapy: This technology aims to adjust the genetic material of cancer cells to prevent them from growing and spreading. The therapy works by introducing new genes into the cells to replace the mutated genes that are not functioning properly. Gene therapy is mainly used to treat blood cancers such as leukemia.
  • Targeted therapy: This treatment targets specific cancer cells by using drugs that inhibit their growth. It works by identifying the unique characteristics of cancer cells that are not present in healthy cells. Targeted therapy is successful in treating breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and melanoma.

Challenges facing Advances in Cancer Treatment Technology

The advances in cancer treatment technology have come with an equal measure of challenges. One of the primary challenges is the affordability of these treatments. The costs of cancer treatments have been on the rise, and this puts a lot of pressure on cancer patients and their families. This is especially the case for treatments, such as gene therapy, which are still new, and the full benefits and risks of such treatments are yet to be established. The development of these new technologies also faces regulatory challenges, with some authorities becoming skeptical about the technology and putting up barriers to testing and approvals. These challenges notwithstanding, the advancements in cancer treatment technology continue to hold a lot of promise and will go a long way in alleviating the pain and suffering of cancer patients and their families.


Cancer remains one of the most complex diseases to treat, and it takes a multi-pronged approach to tackle it. The advancements in cancer treatment technology provide a ray of hope to both current and future cancer patients. There is the need, however, to address the challenges that come with these advancements, including affordability and regulation. Regulatory authorities, cancer researchers, and healthcare practitioners must work together to ensure that the benefits of these advances are realized and accessible to all those that need them.

Type of Treatment Description
Immunotherapy Immune checkpoint inhibitors help stimulate the body’s immune system to attack and destroy cancer cells.
Gene therapy New genes are introduced into cancer cells to replace the affected and non-functioning genes.
Targeted therapy Drugs are used to target specific cancer cells, inhibit their growth, and prevent them from spreading.

Advances in cancer treatment technology offer patients hope in the fight against the disease.

Cancer Prevention and Advocacy

Preventing cancer is just as important as finding a cure. Unfortunately, cancer is prevalent and can strike anyone at any time. That’s why advocacy and prevention efforts are critical in battling this disease in addition to finding a cure.

  • Encourage healthy habits: One of the best ways to prevent cancer is to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Encourage healthy habits such as eating well, exercising regularly, and avoiding harmful substances such as tobacco and excessive alcohol.
  • Cancer screenings: Another way to prevent cancer is by getting regular cancer screenings. Screenings can help identify cancer early on when it is easier to treat.
  • Raise awareness: Advocacy is instrumental in raising awareness about cancer and its prevention. By educating the public about cancer and its risk factors, we can work towards reducing its prevalence and advocating for better policies to support cancer prevention and research.

Cancer Research and Development

Research and development are at the heart of the fight against cancer. Over the years, significant advances have been made in cancer treatment, but much more work needs to be done.

Part of the reason for the Cancer Moonshot initiative is to encourage innovation in cancer research and development. The goal is to find new ways of detecting cancer early, developing better treatments, and ensuring that everyone has access to the latest treatments.

Cancer research involves many complex areas, such as genetics, immunology, and microbiology. One area where significant progress has been made is in precision medicine. Precision medicine is a personalized approach to treating cancer based on the patient’s genetic makeup and other individual traits. This approach can lead to better outcomes and fewer side effects.

Advancements in Cancer Research and Development Description
Immunotherapy Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that helps the body’s immune system fight against cancer.
Targeted Therapies Targeted therapies are drugs that target specific genes or proteins that are unique to cancer cells.
Liquid Biopsies Liquid biopsies are a less invasive way of detecting cancer by analyzing a blood sample.

By continuing to invest in cancer research and development, we can make significant strides in the fight against cancer.

Leading Cancer Research Organizations

There are numerous organizations dedicated to cancer research, but six of the leading organizations that have contributed significantly to the Cancer Moonshot Initiative are:

  • American Association for Cancer Research (AACR): As the world’s first and largest cancer research organization, AACR is dedicated to preventing and curing cancer through research, education, communication, collaboration, and advocacy.
  • National Cancer Institute (NCI): NCI is the United States federal government’s principal agency for cancer research and training. It coordinates the National Cancer Program, which conducts and supports research, training, health information dissemination, and other programs with respect to the cause, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of cancer.
  • Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation (DRCRF): DRCRF is a nonprofit organization that provides young scientists with funding to pursue innovative cancer research. It was founded in 1946 in honor of Damon Runyon, a writer and journalist who died of cancer at the age of 44.
  • Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C): SU2C is a nonprofit organization that seeks to accelerate the pace of cancer research by fostering collaboration among scientists from different disciplines and institutions. It was founded in 2008 by a group of media, entertainment, and philanthropic leaders.
  • Cancer Research UK (CRUK): CRUK is a nonprofit organization that funds research on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. It aims to save more lives by discovering new ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer, and to improve the quality of life for cancer patients and their families.
  • V Foundation for Cancer Research: The V Foundation is a nonprofit organization that funds cancer research through various initiatives, including the V Scholar Grant Program, the Translational Research Grant Program, the Collaborative Research Grant Program, and the Pediatric Cancer Research Grant Program. It was founded in 1993 by Jim Valvano, a college basketball coach who died of cancer at the age of 47.

These organizations have contributed significantly to the fight against cancer by funding groundbreaking research, supporting young scientists, and collaborating with each other and with other stakeholders in the cancer community. By leveraging their collective expertise, resources, and networks, they are helping to accelerate the development of new cancer treatments and cures.

The Future of Cancer Research and Moonshot Initiatives

With advancements in technology and breakthroughs in medicine, the future of cancer research is promising. However, it requires a collaborative effort from researchers, pharmaceutical companies, and government agencies.

  • One of the biggest challenges in cancer research is finding a way to effectively treat all types of cancer. This is where moonshot initiatives, such as the Cancer Moonshot, come into play. The goal of the Cancer Moonshot is to accelerate cancer research and make more therapies available to patients.
  • The Cancer Moonshot was launched by former Vice President Joe Biden in 2016. The initiative’s goal is to bring together researchers and industry leaders to develop better treatments and a cure for cancer. The initiative is also focused on improving access to care and enhancing data sharing among researchers.
  • As part of the Cancer Moonshot, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has been working to develop innovative ways to treat cancer. This includes using immunotherapy, which has shown great promise in treating certain types of cancer.

Overall, the future of cancer research depends on continued collaboration and investment in new technologies and treatments. Moonshot initiatives like the Cancer Moonshot play a vital role in advancing cancer research and bringing us closer to finding a cure.

Below is a table highlighting some of the moonshot initiatives that are currently in progress:

Moonshot Initiative Description
The Cancer Moonshot Focuses on accelerating cancer research, improving access to care, and enhancing data sharing among researchers.
The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative Seeks to develop new technologies and tools to better understand the human brain and treat various neurological disorders.
The Precision Medicine Initiative Uses genetic information to create personalized treatments for patients with cancer and other diseases.

By investing in moonshot initiatives like these, we are taking bold steps towards a future with better treatments and, ultimately, a cure for cancer.

Who Started the Cancer Moonshot: FAQs

1. What is the Cancer Moonshot?

The Cancer Moonshot is a program aimed at accelerating cancer research and ultimately finding a cure for cancer. The program was launched in 2016 as a collaborative effort between the government, private industry, and other stakeholders in the healthcare industry.

2. Who started the Cancer Moonshot?

The Cancer Moonshot was started by former Vice President Joe Biden. Shortly after the death of his son Beau from brain cancer, Biden began advocating for increased funding and collaboration towards a cancer cure. His efforts eventually led to the creation of the Cancer Moonshot initiative.

3. Why did Joe Biden start the Cancer Moonshot?

Joe Biden’s son Beau passed away from brain cancer in 2015. Biden was deeply affected by his son’s illness and death and became determined to make cancer research a top priority. He saw the initiative as a way to accelerate progress towards finding a cure, and improve the lives of cancer patients and their families.

4. Has the Cancer Moonshot been successful?

The Cancer Moonshot has resulted in significant progress towards cancer research and treatment. The program has led to the development and approval of new cancer drugs and therapies, as well as increased collaboration across the healthcare industry. While a cure for cancer has not yet been found, the initiative has been successful in accelerating progress towards this goal.

5. How is the Cancer Moonshot funded?

The Cancer Moonshot is primarily funded through various government agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Health and Human Services. Private industry partners and philanthropic organizations have also contributed funding and resources to support the initiative.

6. What are the goals of the Cancer Moonshot?

The primary goal of the Cancer Moonshot is to accelerate progress towards finding a cure for cancer. The initiative aims to improve cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, while also addressing health disparities and providing support for cancer patients and their families. The program also places a strong emphasis on collaboration and partnerships across the healthcare industry.

7. How can I get involved in the Cancer Moonshot?

There are many ways to get involved in the Cancer Moonshot initiative, including volunteering, donating, and advocating for cancer research and funding. Several organizations, such as the American Cancer Society and Stand Up To Cancer, offer opportunities for individuals to support cancer research and make a difference in the fight against cancer.

Closing Thoughts on Who Started the Cancer Moonshot

The Cancer Moonshot was the brainchild of former Vice President Joe Biden. Since its launch in 2016, the initiative has made significant progress towards accelerating cancer research and treatment. While a cure for cancer has not yet been found, the collaboration and partnerships established through the program offer hope for the future. If you’re interested in making a difference in the fight against cancer, there are many ways to get involved and make a meaningful impact. Thanks for reading, and we hope you’ll visit again soon.