White House Cancer Moonshot coordinator touts advancements, looks for future

White House Cancer Moonshot Coordinator Dr. Danielle Carnival touted a series of recent medical breakthroughs at a recent The Hill event, while laying out the ambitious goals of the program in the coming decades.

“The exciting thing is we have so many more tools today than we had even a couple of decades ago,” Carnival said at the Health Care Innovations event last month. “We have a vaccine that prevents the cause of up to seven types of cancer in the HPV vaccine.”

A study in The Lancet found rates of cervical cancer were 87 percent lower among women in their 20s who received the vaccination between the ages of 12 and 13 when compared with unvaccinated women.

“If we had widespread uptake of that vaccine we could eliminate cervical cancer, we could take an entire cancer pretty much off the map,” Carnival said.

Carnival said she was also excited about the progress being made in the fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

“There’s just incredible neuroscience work being done,” said Carnival. “A drug just got approved for ALS just about a couple weeks or a month ago.”

The drug, Relyvrio, is just the third U.S.-approved medication that treats ALS, however its approval was controversial as it underwent less testing than is usually required. Despite the skepticism, Carnival was hopeful.

“I just hope for the ALS community that that’s a crack in the wall and really shows that this is possible, and that we can do something for the tens of thousands of people facing that diagnosis,” she told The Hill contributing editor Steve Scully.

During the event sponsored by Hologic, Carnival also laid out some of the goals for the Cancer Moonshot, which President Biden restarted after taking office.

The overarching goal is to decrease the death rate from cancer by at least 50 percent over the next 25 years.

Carnival said she and her colleagues also hope to lead joint public-private efforts to close the cancer screening gap, understand and address toxic and environmental exposures, drive innovation, decrease the impact of preventable cancers, and support cancer patients and their families.

“There’s also policy decisions we can make that helps to incentivize and really enable collaboration,” said Carnival. “One example is earlier this year the administration put out a new rule where research that is funded by federal taxpayer dollars, when those publications come out, they need to be freely available to everyone.”

Carnival cautioned that while she was “painting a positive picture” about the direction cancer research, there is still a lot of work to be done.

“We know that the impact of cancer is still devasting on 1.8 million families across the country every year,” said Carnival. “So, we don’t have enough but we are excited about the progress that’s been made and are laser focused on making sure that reaches more people.”

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