The importance of political will and leadership in fighting cancer


The prime focus of the annual healthcare forum, War on Cancer – 2017′ organized by The Economist was to address ways to scale up responses to cancer in middle to lower-income countries and ideate about innovative ways to finance cancer care in an efficient and sustainable way. 

Charles Goddard, Editorial Director of The Economist Intelligence Unit interviewed Greg Simon, Director of Biden Cancer Initiative and former executive director of the White House Cancer Moonshot Task Force at this forum to discuss about key issues relating to cancer care and the importance of political will and leadership to fight cancer.
Charles Goddard, Editorial Director of Asia-Pacific, The Economist Intelligence Unit interviewing Gregory Simon, Director of Biden Cancer initiative
While speaking about the Cancer moonshot and Biden initiative, Greg Simmons explained that the word “moonshot” was inspired by JF Kennedy’s mission of landing a man on the moon; the mission that brought tremendous improvement in science and technology by extending our vision beyond earth to the moon. He said,
Cancer Moonshot is all about helping a person go through their life without the burden of cancer or without getting it or if you get it, help in treating it properly; if you cannot treat it, make it a chronic disease, help them survive the cancer and help their life.”

He urged for the kind of leadership that would fight cancer by changing the culture of how we do things. He lauded the efforts taken by Joe Biden, the former VP of the United States of America for bringing in the right kind of leadership that led people to do things differently and with a sense of urgency.  He also highlighted the politics of cancer when talking about the White House Cancer Moonshot Task Force.

When asked about the key elements that would be required for a Cancer Moonshot kind of initiative to happen in Asia, Greg emphasized the need to integrate data from Asian population into the proteogenomic database, collate the medical records and derive insights from the data. He believes that with the cancer growth predicted around the world, there is a need to carry out focused research on fighting cancer across the globe.

As a way to interface the various programs in different Asian countries with that of the Biden Cancer Initiative, Greg stated that as an independent organization, they would reach out to anyone – be a doctor, patient, university or a scientist, or anyone who cares about cancer- its treatment and side-effects and are interested to fight cancer, and will answer their questions. For he believes, “These are not American questions..these are cancer questions.”

Ending on an emotional note, Greg simmons, a leukaemia survivor himself, stated emphatically that  Nothing determines survivorship of cancer than access to insurance. Nothing. ”