There is no better term than “moonshot” to describe the extraordinarily ambitious goal of doing 10 years’ worth of research in half that time to find a cure for cancer. The fact that President Barack Obama just signed into law a bill to do just that – with bipartisan support – is, in itself, a testament to the 21st Century Cures Act.
The new law will invest $1.8 billion in the Cancer Moonshot Task Force, headed by Vice President Joe Biden. The research segment of that program is named the Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot, in honor of the vice president’s son, who died of a brain tumor in 2015.
The bill also has in it $1 billion for opioid abuse prevention and another $4.8 billion for biomedical research. The new law provides funding to improve mental health access and services, as well.
Present during the signing of the bill was David Grubb, a former West Virginia state senator. His daughter Jessica became addicted to heroin after being sexually assaulted at college in her first year. She enrolled in a rehab program and succeeded. But following surgery for a running injury, the hospital released her with 50 pills of the painkiller OxyContin, even though her medical records stipulated that she was a recovering heroin addict. Jessica died in March from an overdose.
The toll that the opioid epidemic and cancer have taken on American families and communities is immeasurable. Our lawmakers are to be commended for responding.
But can we really beat opioids?
Can we really beat cancer?
Recall that at one time going to the moon seemed impossible. But President John F. Kennedy said it could be done, and it happened in 1969.
Though there was little bipartisan cooperation during the Obama administration, the signing of this bill into law was the exception that proves both parties can work together, and make progress, in politics and policy, when there are clear and common goals.