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Biden to Host National Cancer Research Summit in Washington

Vice President Joe Biden will bring together scientists, oncologists, donors and patients for a national conference on cancer research in Washington, the White House said Tuesday.

Dubbed the “National Cancer Moonshot Summit,” the daylong conference is intended to galvanize Biden’s final-year push to double the pace of research toward curing cancer. The summit is scheduled for June 29 at Howard University, and the White House said it planned to organize dozens of regional summits on the same day in communities far from the capital.

Though there have been cancer conferences before, the White House said Biden’s summit will be the first to focus broadly on the more than 100 types of cancer, rather than on one specific form of the disease.

It will also be the first cancer summit with the government’s imprimatur, backed up by a federal task force that President Barack Obama established in January to drive further federal efforts toward a cure. The Health and Human Services Department will host the regional summits along with cancer advocacy groups, hospitals and politicians, the White House said.

Greg Simon, the former Pfizer Inc. executive running Biden’s cancer initiative, said the summit would emphasize strategies to prevent cancer, detect it early, ensure wide access to treatment and encourage researchers to share data.

“It’s a tall order, to be sure,” Simon wrote in a forthcoming post on the website Medium. “But it’s one I’m confident we can fill once we break down silos and foster more collaboration. The summit’s goal is to do just that.”

Simon said as a result of Biden’s initiative the National Cancer Institute is working with drug companies to make more drugs available in clinical trials that test combinations of medications. The Food and Drug Administration is opening a new center to review combination treatments more quickly, and Biden’s team is working to redesign the website that lists clinical trials so patients can better identify options.

Although the participant list hasn’t been announced, Biden’s office said cancer survivors and researchers would join data experts and representatives from federal agencies working on treatments for the disease. Others will be able to take part in the summit online.

The summit marks the most visible, public component to date of Biden’s cancer “moonshot,” announced by the vice president just months after his eldest son, former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, died from brain cancer last May. To shore up that effort, the White House has asked Congress for $1 billion over two budget years for research. Only a fraction has been approved so far.

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