Trump has introduced new ways to reduce funding for medical research twice–is it possible a cure for cancer will be found under his presidency?
Cancer treatment is the most advanced it has ever been. In fact, sometimes it seems as though it’s at the closest to complete life-saving treatments for all its variations and effects–even a cure.
Still, many experts agree there’s plenty left to be done in the battle against cancer. But, major programs and new therapies make the quest for a cure more interesting.
Let’s first establish the term cure: cancer isn’t just a singular disease that acts up in the same way for every patient. There are many variations that can appear in different parts of the human body. Experts agree that while hopeful a particular “silver bullet” type of cure is unrealistic, the proposition to treat people through promising new tactics gives them hope to offer better options for patients.
With that in mind, will cancer be cured under Trump?
The current state
In its 2016 annual report evaluating cancer care in the US, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) found–despite new discoveries in treatment– one major issue remains in the lack of a uniform treatment for all patients in the country.
“The cancer care delivery system is ill-equipped to take full advantage of the advancements,” such as new drugs and targeted treatments, the report reads.
Stem cell research has proven to be a fascinating therapy, with transplants being used in dealing with blood-related cancers like certain leukemias. Research in this area has been slow–but full of promise–and often cited as potentially being able to treat multiple diseases.
Immunotherapy is defined as a method where the body’s defenses are empowered through introduced substances. One of the most intriguing approaches to immunotherapy is the T-Cell therapy, where T cells in the body are removed and modified in order to receive a protein receptor. Then, once back inside the body, they target and attack cancer cells directly.
InvestSnips maintains a list of small market companies involved in biotech with the option to find out which companies are working in treatments related to cancer.
Cancer research: finding a cure
Just before the end of his term as Vice President, Joe Biden helped pass legislation through Congress for a research program called the Cancer Moonshot, which included almost $2 billion towards cancer research. The idea behind this program is a national push to defeat cancer, akin but not exactly like the one from the US to put a man on the moon.
As noted in Cancer Moonshot’s most recent report, the National Cancer Institute launched a new drug formulary to allow investigators for quicker access to approved and investigational agents in preclinical studies and clinical trials.
A similar initiative was introduced by Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, called Cancer Breakthroughs 2020, vowing that–with technologies already in place–a cure for cancer is achievable and can be found.
While that sounds promising, Dr. Soon-Shiong and his company have faced criticism and declines in the market, highlighting the doctor still has a long road ahead before getting a cure.
Vinay Prasad, a cancer researcher and assistant professor at Oregon Health and Science University, argued one of the cancer moonshot’s first announcements, speeding up the FDA approval process, was not ideal.
“[T]hinking you will substantively improve cancer treatment by altering how it is regulated is like thinking you can run a faster mile by buying a new stopwatch,” he wrote.
Trump cancer cure: where he stands
Although former president Barack Obama said it’s time for the US to provide a change in the fight against cancer–and that Biden’s crusade is an important one–his successor has been at odds with the major medical development.
In March 2017, President Donald Trump promised to cut red tape in the pharmaceutical industry that keeps drug trials on hold for years due to the process of the FDA. Trump even met with various CEO’s and leaders of the industry to discuss what could be done to improve the current situation.
As part of the moonshot program, Biden indicated the need to speed up the FDA approval process. However, Trump has introduced new ways to reduce funding for medical research two separate times.
First he presented his federal budget, where he recommended a 20 percent cut in research fund for the National Institutes of Health. Once the budget was slammed by critics, Trump asked Congress to remove $1.2 billion for research grants in order to afford new military spending and maintain his promise to build a wall through the border of Mexico and the US.
With Trump’s attempts to cut funding into finding a cure, separate funding may be coming from philanthropists. In particular, The Atlantic reported that Biden met with three philanthropists with plans to donate $1 billion or more to cancer research.
Cancer cure requires collaboration
Like many things, communication is certainly key when it comes to working together as a team. As such, one of the key details from Biden’s visits with industry leaders was the lack of communication between researchers in different companies.
Two companies or more enter an arms race to treat the same type of cancer, both reach a somewhat effective drug for it, but clinicians think together the drugs would work better, however, there is no direct path to get this done.
Some of this is already possible thanks to databases from schools like the University of Chicago, who launched the National Cancer Institute’s Genomic Data Commons in 2016.
That said, Trump has been a disruptor in more ways than one. He failed to bring in the far-right Freedom Caucus to support his Obamacare replacement bill and has been unable to bring in Democrats into his plans. As such, the likelihood that he could bring together companies with different goals and a sense of competition seems like a long shot.
While uncertainty surrounds a cure for cancer under Trump, it doesn’t mean it’s a complete shot in the dark. In fact, PharmExec wrote that with the appointment of Dr. Scott Gottlieb as head of the FDA, it could very well have a helping hand in drug approvals and acceptance in the healthcare market.
The publication further notes that the FDA already has a system in place to move along development processes smoothly, and that need to be implemented more frequently.
In that regard, all hope for a cancer cure under Trump isn’t completely lost–it might just require a bit more legwork.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Bryan Mc Govern, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.