VP Biden gives new push on 'Cancer Moonshot' clinical trials

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden on Friday announced new measures to help cancer patients navigate the clinical trials process as part of the administration’s “Cancer Moonshot” initiative to speed new treatments to market.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden addresses the session "Cancer Moonshot: A Call to Action" during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland in this file photo dated January 19, 2016. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

In a statement released ahead of a planned speech at Rice University in Houston, Biden said clinical trials are essential for developing new and more effective cancer diagnostics and treatments.

“Right now, less than five percent of cancer patients enroll in a clinical trial,” he said, “often because patients and doctors don’t know what trials are available.”

The moves solidify plans announced in June to simplify the process for patients to find and enter clinical trials. Biden said the new measures will allow patients to find clinical trials more easily and quickly and increase transparency in reporting trial results.

Cancer researchers welcomed the moves.

“I would characterize the changes Vice President Biden announced as good first steps,” Dr. Barbara Ann Burtness, clinical research program leader for head and neck cancers at Yale Cancer Center said.

“Better information about the trials that are available and how to find these trials will undoubtedly be helpful to patients,” she said. “Innovative trial designs which ask bigger questions more efficiently are also badly needed.

Dr. Ronald DePinho, president of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, which conducts more clinical trials than any other U.S. center, said ‘Moonshot’ is timely because progress is being made faster than ever.

“What is being recognized by the Vice President,” he said, “is that there are certain processes that we have in place that are relatively inefficient,” including the ability for institutions to share data.

Among Friday’s announcements: The National Institutes of Health is seeking to make, where clinical trials are posted, more user friendly and the NIH is publishing a final rule specifying reporting requirements for clinical trials, the statement said.

In future, investigators will be required to publish summaries of trial results whether or not they resulted in an approved product.

“This will enhance transparency within the clinical trials enterprise, allowing people to make more informed decisions about participating in research,” the statement said.

Biden, who’s son Beau died last year at the age of 46 from brain cancer, has helped fuel Biden’s sense of urgency about the project, which was first announced by President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address in January.

Reporting by Toni Clarke in Washington; editing by Grant McCool