Biden resurrects false promise of cancer “Moonshot”

Joe BidenVice President Joe Biden announced today that he won’t be running for president in 2016 but vowed to spend his last 15 months in office working to “silence this deadly disease.”

Biden also resurrected the “Moonshot” analogy first used by M.D. Anderson to describe its vast initiative to cure cancer:

“And I believe that we need a moon shot in this country to cure cancer. It’s personal. But I know we can do this. The president and I have already been working hard on increasing funding for research and development, because there are so many breakthroughs just on the horizon in science and medicine, the things that are just about to happen. And we can make them real with an absolute national commitment to end cancer, as we know it today.”

He added that “If I could be anything, I’d have wanted to be the president who ended cancer. Because I believe it’s possible.”

On several occasions here at we’ve issued cautions about making such flamboyant, unsubstantiated promises when talking about cancer cures. The president of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center made a similar claim earlier this year. Steve Miles, MD, offered a caution then that applies to Biden’s claim as well. Making these types of claims “exploits fear, generates marketing stampedes that run roughshod over deliberate research and somehow manages to draw money into those who claim to not be in it for the money.”  Miles is professor of Medicine and Bioethics at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Bioethics.

We hope health and political reporters don’t pile on with hype as they did when M.D. Anderson announced its cancer “Moonshot.”

Kathlyn Stone is an associate editor with

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Comments (2)

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Roland B. Stark

October 26, 2015 at 7:29 am

Your quote from Steve Miles doesn’t succeed in capturing what’s objectionable about “cure for cancer” statements. But it is simplistic to talk about a cure for a single disease when in fact each type of cancer requires its own research and treatment.

Amy G.

October 28, 2015 at 10:32 pm

I can sympathize with Mr. Biden but it’s a promise akin to George Bush’s promise to stomp out the axis of evil; both too large to cure. I agree far too many people are affected by cancer but at the same time the sad truth is that hospitals, pharmaceutical industry and cancer foundations profit off of the lack of a cure and lack of prevention. I think more money should be spent doing genetic and environmental tests/studies, while promoting prevention.