VP Biden announces new trials push for his ‘Cancer Moonshot’

Just over a month before the presidential elections and in his last few weeks as vice president, Joe Biden is looking to cement his so-called Cancer Moonshot project’s goal of helping get the right patients into cancer trials, while also boosting their efficacy.

Specifically, Biden announced a series of new steps that are designed to help patients gain better access to the sometimes elusive or confusing info around studies for their cancers, as well as seeking to improve the overall efficiency of the U.S. clinical research system. He also wants to ensure that more data from studies are published across the board.

Digging down into the details, on a practical level this has seen the National Cancer Institute redesign a part of its website, trials.cancer.gov, which is designed to make it easier for patients to navigate NCI-backed studies.

In an op-ed written for Time magazine, Biden said: “Anyone can search this site using real words--rather than medical jargon--to find a list of trials that could be right for them or their loved ones.

“The underlying data will be available for app developers and patient groups to create even more tailored resources for patients. For example, a local hospital could use the data to create a search tool specific to their area just as technology developers create applications to help you find restaurants, grocery stores and movies in your neighborhood.

“Building on this progress, the National Institutes of Health is announcing its commitment to making its database of all clinical trials--representing research across all 50 states and 192 countries--easier to use to make sure that patients, regardless of their disease, have the opportunity to participate in clinical trial research.”

The FDA will also seek to bring together clinical researchers across government and the biopharma sector to “design smarter and more efficient clinical trials by exploring ways to modify the criteria for who can participate in a trial or by sharing control groups across studies using different drugs for the same indication,” according to the White House statement.

The idea is that by tapping into older trial data for studies on the same disease, researchers can lower patient numbers needed for a new trial--and in theory speed up the time it takes to start a test.

Biden also wants to improve clinical trial transparency, and said that the Department of Health and Human Services will hand out penalties to those who fail to report on certain info around their trials. More on what level of penalties could be made were not available in the release, but there are plans to require investigators to publish summaries of trial results, regardless of whether they resulted in an approved product.

“These steps will improve the safety, accessibility and impact of our clinical research system,” Biden explained.  

“Clinical trials are essential for developing new and more effective cancer diagnostics and treatments. But right now, less than 5% of cancer patients enroll in a clinical trial, often because patients and doctors don’t know what trials are available. We can do better--and we are.”

The Cancer Moonshot, launched last year in an attempt to reduce the deaths from the disease, will likely become one of Biden's lasting legacies after he leaves the White House.