Cancer Moonshot

The Biden administration “reignited” the US’ Cancer Moonshot initiative, setting a goal to halve the country’s age-adjusted cancer death rate within the next 25 years. Here’s how they plan to achieve this “Moonshot” of a goal, and what that means for imaging.

Cancer Moonshot History – Biden spearheaded the Obama administration’s Cancer Moonshot initiative, inspired by losing his son to brain cancer. The 7-year initiative used $1.8B in federal funding to improve cancer therapeutics, prevention, and detection through scientific discovery, collaboration, and data sharing.

The Reignited Moonshot – The revamped initiative inherits these same goals and approaches, while adding new focus areas and operational structures:

  • Overcoming the COVID pandemic’s cancer screening backlog
  • Addressing inequity in cancer incidence, detection, and care
  • Developing new treatments for rare and childhood cancers
  • Fast-tracking the development of multi-cancer tests
  • Improving the experience of cancer survivors and caregivers
  • Leveraging data to “turn our cancer care system into a learning system”
  • Creating a cancer research funding program modeled after DARPA
  • Appointing federal Cancer Moonshot leaders to coordinate this work

Imaging Alignment – Any government attempt to overcome cancer screening backlogs and to make early detection mainstream would surely result in more imaging, while the Moonshot initiative’s focus on “learning from data” could hold imaging AI upsides. That said, the announcement placed a much brighter spotlight on non-imaging areas (blood tests, vaccines, treatments), and few people on the clinical side of radiology believe more imaging is necessarily better for patients.

Moonshot Critics – The Cancer Moonshot initiative has its fair share of critics, who argued that cutting cancer deaths by 50% would require “curing” cancer (not just catching and treating it), expanding screening has downsides (radiation, unnecessary treatments), and that initiatives like this are largely done for appearances.

The Takeaway
The White House just made the fight against cancer a top administrative priority, meaning that a lot more government attention and resources are on the way, and notable changes in cancer imaging policies and volumes might follow.

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