White House Official Provides Update on Progress Toward Cancer Moonshot Initiative


Cancer Moonshot Initiative launched efforts to investigate how to better support patients with cancer by providing support in the navigation of the diagnosis, treatment, and survival of cancer.

Since the initial launch of the Cancer Moonshot in 2016, there has been measurable progress toward several goals: accelerating scientific discovery in cancer, supporting greater collaboration, and improving the sharing of cancer data, explained Danielle M. Carnival, PhD, White House Cancer Moonshot coordinator, during the “Cancer Moonshot Update” session at the ACCC Annual Meeting & Cancer Center Business Summit in Washington, DC.

Carnival explained that after President Joseph Biden returned to office in 2022, he reignited the Cancer Moonshot efforts with some new additional goals as well: to reduce the cancer death rate by half in 25 years and to improve the lives of patients with cancer and cancer survivors.

Danielle M. Carnival, PhD, White House Cancer Moonshot coordinator during the “Cancer Moonshot Update” session at the ACCC Annual Meeting & Cancer Center Business Summit in Washington, DC.

Danielle M. Carnival, PhD, White House Cancer Moonshot coordinator during the “Cancer Moonshot Update” session at the ACCC Annual Meeting & Cancer Center Business Summit in Washington, DC.

“There are stark inequities in diagnosis, access to treatments and trials, and in outcomes, and we know too little about how to target treatments to the right patients,” Carnival said during her presentation. “There are cancers for which we lack strategies to develop treatments, like some of our deadliest diagnoses for rare and childhood cancers. We [also] leave too many patients and caregivers to navigate the disease and its aftermath on their own, and we don't learn from the experiences of most patients.”

However, Carnival shared that the Cancer Moonshot initiative is pushing investigations into new ways of addressing these issues. For example, in the area of supporting patients, caregivers, and survivors, White House officials have been looking into how to better support patient efforts to overcome the medical, financial, and emotional burdens that cancer brings by providing support in the navigation of the diagnosis, treatment, and survival of the disease.

“To address inequities, we can ensure that every community in America—rural, tribal, urban, and everywhere else—has access to cutting edge cancer diagnostics, therapeutics, and clinical trials by rethinking our research and care system and expanding its reach,” Carnival said. “[Further], to speed up progress against the deadliest rare cancers, including childhood cancers, we can invest in a robust pipeline for new science and treatments.”

Carnival noted that the US health care system’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic helped demonstrate its capacity to effectively accelerate clinical trials without compromising safety and efficacy. To this end, the first ever Cancer Cabinet was established to catalyze the government’s efforts in the oncology space.

Additionally, the Cancer Moonshot initiative tasked the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Labor, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Department of Defense, and NASA with the goals of helping to close screening gaps; understand and address environmental and toxic exposures; decrease the impact of preventable cancers through nutrition education, tobacco cessation programs, and increased human papillomavirus vaccination rates; drive cutting-edge research through pipelines so they can reach patients and communities; and better support patients with cancer and their caregivers.

Following the communication of these goals, nearly 30 announcements were made last year from the Cancer Cabinet regarding the initial steps made toward these priority goals. For example, the National Cancer Institute announced the launch of a large national clinical trial that, if successful, could identify effective blood tests for the protection of one or more cancers to help with earlier detection.

Another announcement was made regarding the Inflation Reduction Act, which would cap out of pocket prescription drug costs at $2000 a year for Medicare beneficiaries. With this law in place, tens of thousands of patients with cancer could see their prescription drug prices go down by thousands annually.

The CDC also issued more than $200 million in grants as part of a commitment to bring effective cancer screening and early detection to every state, tribal nation, and territory. The Environmental Protection Agency, as part of a bipartisan infrastructure law, is also working to clean up toxic sites and replace lead and other old pipes so that drinking water is safer for the US population.

Further, the USDA is funding more research through their National Institute of Food and Agriculture and launched the Agricultural Science Center of Excellence for Nutrition and Diet for Better Health, which focuses on how to prevent diet-related chronic diseases, including cancer. Also, the VA is implementing the President's bipartisan PACT Act, which ensures veterans can receive high-quality health care screenings and services related to potential toxic exposures for veterans exposed during their military service.

“[One and a half] million veterans have already received a screening for toxic exposure as of January [2023], and in November [2022], the VA announced they would expedite veteran's benefit claims for cancers associated with PACT Act exposures,” Carnival said.

The FDA is also moving forward on ensuring that regulations are in place that make tobacco products less attractive and addictive. The National Cancer Institute also announced new efforts to double the rate of accrual in clinical trials and to connect recruitment of those trials more extensively to underrepresented populations. Further, the Office of Science and Technology Policy held a series of Cancer Moonshot equity roundtables as part of the commitment to ensure that the tools we have available for patients with cancer can reach more Americans.

“We need to bring the cancer care system to people—to their neighborhoods, their communities, and the doctors that they know,” Carnival said. “So much is being asked of patients and their families following a cancer diagnosis. [These patients] have jobs, are parents with children, or are caring for their own parents, and on top of all of that they're confronted with navigating the financial, emotional, and medical burden that cancer brings.

“We need to find better ways to support them with information, passion, and guidance on how to take each step. Over the past year, the Cancer Moonshot has spurred tremendous action across the federal government and public and private sectors, laying the foundation for the work ahead.”


Carnival DM. Cancer Moonshot Update. Presented at: ACCC Annual Meeting & Cancer Center Business Summit in Washington, DC; March 9, 2023.

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