(CNN) — President Joe Biden convened a meeting of his Cancer Cabinet on Wednesday in the latest attempt from the administration to refocus the national conversation around the president’s domestic agenda.
The event marked Biden’s first public appearance since House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced plans to open an impeachment inquiry into the president on Tuesday, something the administration has labeled an “illegitimate” endeavor. The president ignored shouted questions about McCarthy’s plans.
Biden hailed what he called government-wide work “to mobilize a whole-country effort to cut American cancer deaths in half in the next 25 years – or sooner, God willing.”
“In the next few weeks, [Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health] ARPA-H will award $250 million for cancer-related research and innovation projects,” he said. “We’re helping people quit smoking, the single largest driver of cancer deaths in America still there. We’re modernizing our cancer research system, breaking down silos so new data is available to as many experts across the country as possible. The bottom line is the Cancer Moonshot today embodies America as a nation of possibilities.”
The president touted the Cancer Moonshot’s work as part of his administration’s “Unity Agenda,” noting he’d even enlisted NASA Administrator Bill Nelson to utilize the agency’s work on radiation and supercomputing to further the fight against cancer. The president often points to his Unity Agenda as policy priorities all Americans should be able to support despite the divisive political moment.
“During the campaign, I was asked, ‘What’s the one thing I would do if I were president, if I could just do one thing?’ I said I’d cure cancer,” he said. “Not because it’s the most frightening thing that exists out there, but we used to think we can handle anything, and cancer – we sort of gave up on the notion that we could cure cancer. Everything that we’ve ever put our mind to, we’ve been able to, and I was trying to make the point that it’s essential that we keep that spirit and keep that sense. And I said beating cancer because we can, because I wanted to inject a sense of optimism in what we can do as a country. But there’s still a lot more work to do- – and that’s what we’re focusing on today.
The meeting, convened by both the president and first lady Dr. Jill Biden, allowed representatives from across federal agencies to update the nation on new steps by the administration, non-governmental organizations and the private sector to end cancer.
In addition to Biden’s announcement, new programs from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Environmental Protect Agency will seek to expand cancer care to underserved communities, reduce the impact of smoking in underserved, minority, tribal, and veterans’ communities, and invest in community centers offering cancer screenings.
And NASA, in partnership with the International Space Station, will also announce funding for in-orbit research projects to advance cancer technology.
Biden unveiled his “Cancer Cabinet,” as part of his administration’s broader Cancer Moonshot initiative in 2022. It’s made up of representatives from the Departments of Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, Defense, Energy and Agriculture, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute and others across the executive branch.
For her part, the first lady has used her platform to support cancer patients and their families, participating in more than 40 Cancer Moonshot events in 16 cities across almost a dozen states, per the White House.
The issue remains a personal one for the Biden family – both have had cancerous lesions removed as part of routine checkups, while their son, Beau Biden, died of a glioblastoma brain tumor in 2015.
The administration is also expected to unveil new partnerships from a slew of NGO and private entities as part of the meeting Wednesday, with commitments from the American Cancer Society, CVS Health, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the National LGBT Cancer Network, and more.
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