Distributive policy

Greg Simon’s Cancer Rx includes a better White House rallying call

In 2014, Washington, DC insider Greg Simon waited four days for cancer test results and didn’t want to wait any longer. He himself called his doctor. “I’m glad you called,” Simon recalled. “You have leukemia.”

“It’s not how most people would like to know – during a phone call they had to make to their own doctor,” Simon says.

On the day his cancer was declared in remission two years later, Simon was unexpectedly offered a job where he could have a big impact on the way cancer is fought nationwide. Then Vice President Joe Biden invited him to become the first executive director of the White House Cancer Moonshot, driving policy to accelerate cancer treatments in a newly formed task force and 20 cabinets and sub-cabinet.

The senior civil servant and longtime businessman spoke bluntly about what happened next – and the changes he says are needed today to fight the deadly scourge – at the Forbes online summit China Healthcare, Friday.

“I’ve said in every speech I’ve given since leaving the White House that the biggest regret I have is that we haven’t done enough to distribute the benefits of our research. miraculous…to all equally,” Simon said. said. He also criticized the lack of access and global cooperation in clinical trials of potentially life-saving new drugs.

And for the first time, Simon suggested that now President Biden, who “revived” the Cancer Moonshot program at the White House in February this year, give it a new name that suggests a more global reach. “I hope we can all do everything we can to make this a reality – that the Cancer Moonshot becomes the Human Moonshot, and we’re doing everything we can to spread it around the world,” Simon said.

A lawyer by training, Simon, 70, entered politics working in Congress and later with Vice President Al Gore on domestic policy. His healthcare industry experience includes serving as senior vice president for global policy and public engagement at Pfizer and as co-founder of FasterCures (with Michael Milken) and the Melanoma Research Alliance. Today he is a consultant, speaker, co-founder of IMX Health Exchange and CEO of Intelligent Medicine Acquisition Corp.

The first Biden-led White House Cancer Moonshot “tried to do a lot” in the just nine months from the date of its announcement to the end of the Obama administration. A Blue-Ribbon panel developed a proposal for 10 different areas that were incorporated into the National Cancer Institute and received $1.8 billion in congressional funding during the final days of Obama’s term. in DC, Simon noted. “We got agencies talking to each other for the first time,” Simon said, noting $4 million in support from the Veterans Administration, or VA, for the Department of Energy to build a data network capable of handling the recordings of the largest in the world. hospitals; the VA has also teamed up with the National Cancer Institute to help veterans participate in potentially life-saving drug trials.

Additionally, NASA used its radiation labs for the first time to help the National Cancer Institute; the Commerce Department expedited no-cost patent review for cancer treatments. As vice president, Biden traveled to a proteomics conference in Dublin and also joined a cancer conference at the Vatican as part of an international push that drew people from health care workers to mathematicians. “The first Moonshot did a lot of things under the radar that the public might not see, but the people who were helped saw it,” Simon said.

Simon, however, has higher expectations for the latest Cancer Moonshot announced in February. “Unlike the original Moonshot (1960s space), which was a spectator sport, this Moonshot is not a spectator sport. It’s about getting involved.” Leading the effort is the Simon’s former assistant, Danielle Carnival, who will have two to three years to move the markers established in 2016 further up the field.

A breakthrough this week: The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced a requirement that all federally funded cancer research be published and shared in open journals rather than put behind paywalls that charge for access. “We’ve been trying to do this for 20 years. And people say, ‘What about the publishing model?’ asked Simon. “And I say, ‘What about? It’s easier to solve than people with cancer. So let’s keep an eye on the ball. The ball is the people.

Social equity in access to cancer treatment will only improve if it becomes a political priority at the national level, he said. “And the only way that will happen is if we all make it a priority. You can’t keep inventing therapies to cure people, but only the wealthy or the well-insured can (have them). We have to do social justice an essential and central part of everything we do,” he said.

“Personally, I can’t live with the idea that someone with my cancer who happens to be of a different race wouldn’t receive the same care and treatment (as I did). I can’t stand the idea that my sister survived breast cancer, but a black woman has a much lower chance of surviving breast cancer. None of us should live with that. We should all fight for social justice in distributing the miraculous rewards of research for which we have spent billions and (for which) we have dedicated an army of brilliant people who are willing to sacrifice a great deal to help everyone. world. ”

Simon also urged an overhaul of regulations that cover clinical drug trials with international partners. “We need to get out of the vision of clinical trends of the 1950s. Clinical trials are no longer just experiments. These are treatments. It used to be unethical to call them a treatment. We are past that stage,” Simon said.

“I’ve met so many people in their twenties who were in hospice until they found a clinical trial that brought them back to life. We need to add regulatory organization, we need to trust, (and) we We need to trust each other’s data, and the new Moonshot can do just that.

“When we have historical data on what works, we can create new trials that are adaptive (and) move people through possible therapies much faster than we did in the old system. We have to take these beads that we put in a necklace and tighten them,” he said. “We can no longer afford to spend a year between phase two and phase three, or even spend six years to get to a clinical trial with artificial intelligence and machine learning. We have no excuse for continuing to essentially use pen and paper from the past 50 years.

That, in turn, would help get the public to recognize that the fight against cancer is a global need — and not just close to home, he said. “Why are we here on this crust above a molten core, circling the star that is so hot?” asked Simon. “We can’t even get close to it one degree and survive. We are here to love each other, because life itself is so precious. When Cancer wins, the only thing we humans can do is love each other.

“That’s why I’d like to change Cancer Moonshot’s name to Human Moonshot. How we treat others defines our view of humanity. And as Human Moonshot, it’s my great hope that we’ll learn how to bring all of these wonderful therapies to people we’ll never meet, to people who are unlike us (and to) people we’ve been trained to consider our enemies,” Simon said. “That’s my goal. That’s my hope – that we can turn the Human Moonshot into a truly global effort to show people how we can care for each other and love each other.

“How we cherish” each other with today’s remarkable science, Simon concluded, “will define our species” within the larger framework of history.

Other speakers at the event included: Steve Forbes, President and Editor-in-Chief, Forbes; Dr. Lisa DeAngelis, chief medical officer, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; Hon. Kevin Rudd, CEO, Asia Society, 26e Prime Minister of Australia; Dr. Wu Yi-Long, President, Chinese Thoracic Oncology Group; Dr. Nancy Y. Lee, Chief and Vice President, Radiation Oncology, MSK; Dr. Bob T. Li, Medical Ambassador to China and Asia-Pacific, MSK; and Dr. Louis J. DeGennaro, President and CEO, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Additionally, Dr. Tyler Jacks, President, Break Through Cancer; Professor Andrew W. Lo, Professor of Finance, MIT; Kenneth Manotti, senior vice president and chief development officer, MSK; Dr. Yinghua Wang, Senior Regulatory Health Project Manager, Oncology Center of Excellence, FDA; Rose Gao, Head of Global Drug Development for Novartis China, Novartis; Dr. Eduard Gasal, President, Innovent USA; Dr. Vincent Chia, Managing Director, Raffles China Healthcare, Raffles Medical Group; and Dr. Yibing Shan, CEO, Antidote Foundation for the Cure of Cancer; I also spoke.

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