White House Announces Advanced Cancer Research Initiative 

July 27, 2023 by Dan McCue
White House Announces Advanced Cancer Research Initiative 
FILE - President Joe Biden speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, July 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

WASHINGTON — The White House on Thursday unveiled the first initiative of its new cancer-focused research agency, a program intended to improve cancer surgery outcomes by helping doctors more easily distinguish between cancers and healthy tissue.

The administration’s Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health was established last year to bolster breakthroughs in the prevention, detection and treatment of cancer and other diseases.

The agency’s new Precision Surgical Interventions program aims to develop new tools that will help surgeons avoid healthy nerves and blood vessels, while ensuring they can remove all cancerous cells.

In a lengthy statement released by the White House Thursday morning, President Joe Biden called the new program a “major milestone in the fight to end cancer as we know it.”

“As surgical oncologists know, removing cancer can be incredibly challenging,” the president continued. “Determining how exactly to operate to excise all cancerous cells, while saving healthy cells and protecting critical organs, nerves and blood vessels, is a huge challenge. In some cases, the surgical team can’t safely perform the procedure. 

“Still, despite many innovations in treating cancer, surgery is often the first best step,” Biden said. “Researchers and innovators across the country are pioneering new techniques and technologies to make cancer removal surgeries more precise, accurate and achievable. It’s an exciting horizon in cancer research and development that could save and extend many lives. Now, through ARPA-H, we will fund promising new approaches to removing cancer surgically.”

According to a fact sheet from the agency, surgery is often the first treatment option offered to the approximately 2 million Americans diagnosed with cancer each year.

By identifying technologies that enable surgeons to spot and avoid important structures such as nerves, blood vessels and lymph nodes, which can be mistakenly damaged during invasive surgical procedures, the agency hopes to cut down on repeat surgeries, more difficult recoveries and cancer recurrence, all while lowering health care costs.

Through a Broad Agency Announcement for the Precision Surgical Interventions program, ARPA-H will solicit proposals for methods and techniques to improve visibility of cancer and other critical anatomical structures during surgery. 

The announcement will solicit proposals focused on cancer localization and healthy structure localization. 

Recognizing that there is likely more than one ambitious solution to this tough challenge, multiple awards under this announcement are anticipated and resources available will depend on the quality of the proposals received and the availability of funds. 

To ensure the devices can be readily adopted in the real world, awardees will consult with surgeons and ARPA-H on usability. 

A Proposers Day for interested research teams is scheduled for Sept. 7, in Chicago, Illinois.

“Harnessing the power of innovation is essential to achieving our ambitious goal of turning more cancers from death sentences to treatable diseases and — in time — cutting the cancer death rate in half,” Biden said. 

“As we’ve seen throughout our history, from developing vaccines to sequencing the genome, when the U.S. government invests in innovation, we can achieve breakthroughs that would otherwise be impossible and save lives on a vast scale. ARPA-H follows in that tradition of bold, urgent innovation,” the president added.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and @DanMcCue

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  • Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health
  • cancer research
  • Joe Biden
  • White House
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