Sept. 13 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced $240 million in new projects as part of his "Cancer Moonshot" initiative, which aims to cut cancer death rates by half over the next 25 years.
"Almost everywhere we go, whether it's meeting with folks at local events or meeting with world leaders, beating cancer brings people together, no matter where you are," Biden told reporters in remarks.
The president and first lady Jill Biden convened the White House Cancer Cabinet -- a group of government and private sector officials -- on Wednesday to reveal the new federal investment and actions to "end cancer as we know it," the White House announced in a statement.
During Wednesday's meeting, which was also attended by Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young, Biden unveiled $240 million in funding from the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health to help improve cancer prevention and treatment.
The money will be used to develop new early cancer detection tools, enhance the precision of surgical tools to treat tumors more effectively and pursue innovative biological therapies that utilize bacteria to target and eliminate cancer cells inside the body.
The funds will also be used to fund new efforts to prevent and end smoking. Specifically, the National Cancer Institute is working with the Department of Veterans Affairs for tobacco-treatment and the Indian Health Service to launch SmokeFreeNation in a text messaging program to help "American Indian and Alaska Native adolescents and adults quit smoking, while honoring the significance of traditional tobacco."
"For Joe and for me, this is the mission of our lives, and I look forward to hearing from all of you about the ways I can help advance and lift up your work," the first lady said during her remarks Wednesday.
"Joe Biden is determined to be a president for all Americans. That is why his Unity Agenda is about making progress on the biggest challenges we all face regardless of party," White House deputy chief of staff Bruce Reed added in a statement. "At his direction, the entire federal government is mobilizing like never before to end cancer as we know it."
Biden has set an ambitious goal to cut more than 4 million cancer deaths by 2047 while improving treatment and other quality care nationwide.
So far, the Cancer Moonshot has announced roughly 50 new programs, policies, and resources and secured more than 100 funding commitments from private companies, non-profit organizations, and patient groups, the White House said.
As part of the effort, the administration will establish a new "biomedical data fabric toolbox" that will enhance cancer research by sharing critical data between hospitals, labs, urgent care centers, and agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute.
Until now, cancer research data was "collected across thousands of research labs, clinical care organizations, and numerous other sources," the White House said in a statement. "These entities all store their datasets differently, making it difficult for cancer researchers to leverage the full potential of massive amounts of data that exist."
The change would lead to better disease detection, prevention and treatment, while reducing the time needed to integrate new research datasets from months to days, the White House said.
"This project will help bring America's cancer research system into the 21st century by transforming our health care system for cancer into a learning system, ensuring that knowledge gained through research is available to as many experts as possible, and delivering discovery and breakthroughs to patients sooner," the White House said.
The program will deploy a vast network of health providers that will conduct cancer clinical trials in poor communities in all 50 states.
The network will enlist the help of health providers, researchers, organizations and local governments to ensure treatments reach underserved populations.
A major aspect of the program includes a plan to help Americans quit smoking as tobacco consumption "remains the biggest single driver of cancer deaths in the country," the White House said.
The Department of Health and Human Services is planning to introduce a government blueprint before the end of the year to accelerate anti-tobacco efforts.
As part of the effort, CVS Health will launch a comprehensive anti-smoking program in a dozen states.
Another $15 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will go to several cities over five years to reduce the impact of menthol and flavored tobacco products in communities with health disparities related to smoking.
The Health Resources and Services Administration will establish community health centers nationwide in an effort to boost the number of breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screenings.
The plan also includes a renewed focus on providing cancer treatment to veterans.
Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency was planning to roll out new requirements to limit exposure to secondhand smoke and other environmental carcinogens associated with cancer risk.
The administration was also partnering with NASA, which was funding several cancer research projects taking place on the International Space Station.
Biden introduced the Cancer Moonshot initiative in 2016 when he was vice president under then-President Barack Obama, and not long after his son, Beau, died of brain cancer.
Last year, Biden visited the John F. Kennedy Library in Massachusetts to promote the initiative on Sept. 12, the 60th anniversary of Kennedy's famous speech proclaiming the United States would put astronauts on the moon by the end of the 1960s.
During remarks, Biden emphasized that cancer research and the nation's cancer care system remain his top priorities.
"I believe we can usher in the same unwillingness to postpone, the same national purpose that will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills to end cancer as we know it and to cure cancers once and for all," Biden told the packed library.
"On this day in 1962, America was facing an inflection point," Biden said. "When President Kennedy announced Moonshot, we didn't have all the tools we needed. With our 'Cancer Moonshot,' today we do."