Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Editorials

Fight against cancer needs both parties

In 1971, President Richard Nixon declared war on cancer, announcing plans to pour more than $100 million into finding a cure for the disease.

The ensuing National Cancer Act of 1971 has not been able to defeat cancer, but it laid the groundwork for research that has put a major dent in mortality rates. Cancer deaths fell more than 25 percent between 1990 and 2014.

Researchers were rightfully alarmed when President Donald Trump's proposed budget included a $5.8 billion cut to the National Institutes of Health, which funds much of the nation's cancer research. Cuts of that magnitude could set researchers back years. Both Congress and the public are likely to object.

During his 2016 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama announced the creation of the Cancer Moonshot Task Force, headed by then-Vice President Joe Biden, who said he was not declaring his own war on cancer but trying to finish the war Nixon started more than 45 years ago.

Biden has continued his commitment to the goal since leaving office.

In June, he and his wife, Jill Biden, launched the Biden Cancer Initiative. Their venture is promoting collaboration between leading researchers and also building an open-access cancer database, which includes genomic and clinical data for cancer patients.

The data aid researchers in looking for a cure, but also patients researching available treatments.

More than anything, Mr. and Mrs. Biden are adding a sense of urgency to the cancer war. Their son, Beau Biden, died of a glioblastoma in May 2015. Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy died of the same type of brain tumor in 2009. And recently, it was announced that Republican Sen. John McCain also has a glioblastoma, an aggressive tumor that typically kills within 15 months of diagnosis.

Cancer knows no party affiliation. In these days of partisan bickering, efforts to eradicate the disease should receive bipartisan support, and researchers should receive any help they need. Mr. and Mrs. Biden have energized the efforts, and now McCain's diagnosis makes the disease even more personal for members of Congress. The American Cancer Society estimates that 1.7 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer this year. We must persevere. We cannot go wobbly in this fight.

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