“To the clinicians in the room, how many times has a patient looked you in the eye and said:
‘Doc, can you just give me two more weeks? I want to walk her down the aisle.’
‘Can you give me another month? He’s graduating.’
‘My daughter’s about to deliver our first grandchild, let me see it, please let me be there.’
They aren’t asking to live. They aren’t asking to be cured. They’re asking for one more moment and it matters. It matters a lot. Every damn moment counts and every moment we delay matters.”
- Joe Biden, October 24th, 2016, Cleveland Clinic Medical Innovation Summit
There are a few things in life that have the ability to put everything into perspective—moments and experiences that strip away our opinions and offer an unfiltered view of our place in the world.
Cancer is one of those things. Cancer is something that affects us all, no matter your race, creed, or socioeconomic standing.
When cancer strikes you or someone you love, there is only one thing you can do.
Pray to God (however you choose to define) that you or your loved one will see this through.
Pray that the medical institution and professionals who take your life in their hands have the necessary tools to provide treatment.
Joe Biden, a devout Catholic, certainly prayed when he learned his son Beau had been diagnosed with brain cancer.
He prayed when he put his son’s survival in the hands of the brilliant oncologists at MD Anderson, and he prayed when his son's treatment proved ineffective.
He prayed when the end was near and when there was nothing more he, one of the most powerful men in the world, could do.
Today, he is using his experience and his position as Vice President of the United States to spearhead change that promises to revolutionize the way we research, diagnose, and treat cancer.
His work leading the White House’s Cancer Moonshot initiative (read Biden’s most recent Report to the President for a full breakdown of the initiative's goals and current progress) has already lead to numerous breakthroughs including the creation and launch of the Genomic Data Commons, a unified data repository that aggregates and makes available incredible amounts of clinical data to the cancer research community.
The Genomic Data Commons highlights Biden’s most pressing call in today's speech: the need to remove barriers and foster collaboration between researchers, clinicians, technologists, health systems, corporations, and public enterprises.
And to do it now.
His message is one of hope. He believes that over the next 15 years we will make more advancements in cancer diagnosis and treatment than we have over the past 75, and that if we work together as a collective, we can cure cancer. With the United States government, Amazon, IBM, Microsoft, and some of the leading Health Systems in the world already committing incredible resources, there is real reason to believe that the collective power of our brightest minds can lead to accelerated innovation in the space.
At the same time, his message carries a critique of the industry-wide status quo of how healthcare data is shared today. During his speech, Biden recounted an all too familiar story of relying on cell phone pictures to share MRIs between care teams at two world-class organizations that have siloed electronic health record systems. (Beau received treatment at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia as well as the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston).
As an integral figure in the creation and delivery of the American Recovery Act—which saw some 35 billion dollars go to digitizing our medical records—this lack of interoperability was a clear point of frustration, and is an industry-wide problem he is now devoted to fixing. He also urged hospitals and researchers to stop viewing scientific breakthroughs as individual achievements and to foster an environment of collaboration that rewards sharing data and findings.
In today’s age of dysfunctional politics, Biden is a reminder of the power of a gifted politician, someone who has the ability to inspire hope and form powerful coalitions that transcend private interests in pursuit of a greater good.
As someone who has watched loved ones go through horrific cancer battles and currently works to knock down the barriers that limit healthcare data sharing, I'm encouraged by the potential of the Cancer Moonshot and am committed to serving in whatever way I can toward its success. I hope you will watch his speech and come away with the same resolve.
Today I was reminded of our potential—not as a country, but as human beings—to put aside our differences and work towards a seemingly impossible goal. This ability to transcend perceived limitations and develop solutions that impact us all is uniquely human.
Finding a cure for cancer is something that pushes us to be our very best, to do the impossible. There has never been a more important time for us to rally around something that matters.
Let’s rally around this.
At Redox, we’re willing collaborate in any way we can to make this vision reality. You know where to find us.