Durham Mason Hosts Vice President


DURHAM — Invoking the aspirational spirit that put U.S. astronauts on the moon, Vice President Joe Biden visited Duke Health February 10 as part of the national “moonshot” initiative he is leading to advance cancer research. Duke Department of Neurosurgery Chairman John Sampson, a North Carolina Mason, led a laboratory tour for Biden during his visit.

After that tour, the vice president held a roundtable discussion with key leaders in the cancer community who were convened to share their aspirations for the moonshot.

With the Duke Cancer Institute and the Duke University School of Medicine as a backdrop, the vice president cited the unique history of the Research Triangle area, where major universities, biotechnology companies, and federal research agencies have long combined forces. He said the area’s teamwork demonstrates the sort of collaborative effort that the cancer cure moonshot aims to foster nationwide.

“I’m not naïve that we are going to cure every cancer,” Biden said during a roundtable discussion. He noted that more government funding is just one element necessary to achieve the moonshot’s goal of condensing a decade worth of research advances into just five years. Biden urged all groups to work together across academic disciplines, joining business and industry, philanthropic organizations, advocacy groups, and others.

Dr. Michael B. Kastan, executive director of the Duke Cancer Institute said, “It’s a very exciting time in cancer right now, and it’s a very challenging time,” Kastan said. “When the National Cancer Act was passed in 1971 by Congress, people expected that discoveries were going to be made very quickly. But, we were in no position to quickly advance our diagnosis and treatment of cancer at that time.” Cancer has proven to be a formidable foe, he said.

After 40 years of research and development, however, the field is at a pivotal point, Kastan said. The vice president’s advocacy for the moonshot initiative could be that final push that enables science to reach its goal.

“In many ways, Vice President Biden is asking the same questions we are,” Dr. Eugene Washington, chancellor for health affairs at Duke University and president and chief executive officer of the Duke University Health System, said. “How do we accomplish ten years of advancement in five years? How do we really pick up the pace? In research, education, patient care, and our communities locally and globally, that is exactly what we aspire to do and what we will do.”

— Sarah Avery and Health News Office

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