21st Century Cures Act Will Support ‘Revolutionary’ Cancer Research

On Dec. 13, President Barack Obama signed into law the 21st Century Cures Act, legislation that includes significant funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to further the Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot, and to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to speed the drug approval process. Laurie Glimcher, MD, president and CEO of Dana-Farber, served on Vice President Joe Biden’s Blue Ribbon Panel, outlining the goals of the Cancer Moonshot, and was in Washington, D.C. as President Obama signed the bill. She spoke with Jessica Bartlett of the Boston Business Journal about what this legislation means for cancer research and patient care. An excerpt of their conversation follows, and can be found in its entirely on the Boston Business Journal website.

Dana-Farber President and CEO Laurie Glimcher
Dana-Farber President and CEO Laurie Glimcher.

Bartlett: This bill will do a lot. What are you most excited about?

Glimcher: There are a number of things about the bill that I’m excited about… The part especially dear to my heart is the Cancer Moonshot, which has been renamed in honor of Beau Biden. That will provide $1.8 billion over seven years of funding for cancer research, care, and outreach to the community – many things that as a member of the Blue Ribbon panel we came up with several months ago. So I’m really optimistic for the future of cancer research. I think it’s a revolutionary time for cancer research…but we have to remember that even with both those revolutions (precision medicine and immunotherapy), we’re not curing most cancers. We have a long way to go and much work to do and we need the resources to do it.

I know how hard researchers and oncologists are working to take care of patients. This is an unbelievingly committed group of individuals and I’m so proud to be leading the way at Dana-Farber to find support for the work they are doing… I’m delighted and moved that everyone came together to see this happen.

Bartlett: Are there other ways Dana-Farber might receive a portion of this funding or is it mainly through NIH grants?

Glimcher: The funding is there. That’s the good news. The even better news is we have such talented researchers at Dana-Farber. Every day I go into work, meet another faculty member and hear about their research, and I am blown away. We have great senior researchers…but we have an unbelievable pipeline of young scientists who are the next generation. I am confident that our researchers are going to be highly competitive in receiving some of that funding, because they are doing first-class work.

Bartlett: Where does the Moonshot go from here?

Glimcher: There will be funding to support all kind of research and improve clinical care. If you look at the themes in the final version [of the bill], one important goal is to reach out to patients and get them involved in their care, and make sure we’re serving a diverse community and going out into the community so everyone has access to exciting clinical trials for new drugs. My goal, as CEO of Dana-Farber, is that every patient for whom standard of care is not adequate will have the opportunity to go on a clinical trial. And it won’t just be at Longwood. It will be in the community.

Read the full interview.