NPR logo White House To Request $1 Billion For Cancer 'Moonshot'

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White House To Request $1 Billion For Cancer 'Moonshot'

President Obama plans to ask Congress for $755 million in cancer-research funding as part of his 2017 budget, according to the White House.

That would bring the funding total to nearly $1 billion over the next two years to accelerate what the president called a "moonshot" to try to eliminate cancer. Congress has already approved $195 million in research funding in 2016.

President Obama first called for the initiative in last month's State of the Union address, announcing that it would be led by Vice President Joe Biden, whose son died from cancer last year. Obama said:

"Last year, Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer. Last month, he worked with this Congress to give scientists at the National Institutes of Health the strongest resources they've had in over a decade.

"Tonight, I'm announcing a new national effort to get it done. And because he's gone to the mat for all of us, on so many issues over the past 40 years, I'm putting Joe in charge of Mission Control. For the loved ones we've all lost, for the family we can still save, let's make America the country that cures cancer once and for all."

A newly convened White House task force on cancer met for the first time Monday afternoon, NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

The task force includes representatives from the National Institutes of Health, the Health and Human Services Department, the Defense Department, the Food and Drug Administration and other federal agencies,

Its priorities, as laid out by the White House, are to "focus on making the most of Federal investments, targeted incentives, private sector efforts from industry and philanthropy, patient engagement initiatives, and other mechanisms to support cancer research and enable progress in treatment and care."

Scott says the additional $755 million, if approved, represents "an increase of about 15 percent over what the federal government is already spending to fight cancer, the nation's second leading cause of death." He adds: "By coordinating research and treatment efforts throughout the federal government, the administration hopes to double the pace of progress."

For comparison's sake, $1 billion was roughly the cost of one space shuttle launch toward the end of the space shuttle program.

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