Joe Biden, the US Vice President during Barack Obama’s administration, paid Imperial a visit on 9th October to deliver the inaugural lecture of the Imperial Cancer Research UK (CRUK) Centre. Vice President Biden spoke of the “urgency of now” as cancer research realises a radical, highly collaborative and progressive step-change, surpassing that of the Nixon-era “war on cancer”. The lecture was hosted by Professor the Lord Darzi of Denham, the Imperial CRUK Centre’s Director and director of Imperial’s Institute of Global Health Innovation, and Alice Gast, President of Imperial College London. Vice President Biden met President Gast and Lord Darzi to discuss Imperial’s new cancer centre, explaining that the initiative was “changing the way we do business in cancer research and care” and had helped foster new collaborations with countries all over the world.

The former Vice President urged scientists to collaborate in ways that haven’t existed before, calling for data to be made more widely accessible and for the creation of a cancer research and care system that the public deserves. He then went on to compliment Imperial’s “impressive” work in the fight against cancer, saying: “I’ve never seen folks as bright and who work as hard as all of you. You are the most talented community in the world”. Vice President Biden warned that, by 2025, there will be almost 20 million new cancer cases and 11.4 million deaths around the world every year. He added: “We need to use all the expertise we have working together to take down this disease”. Biden also added: “We cannot accept disparities of outcomes by race, gender and geography. We cannot accept unaffordable treatments. We cannot accept failing to adopt policy to address risk factors such as obesity, smoking and alcohol consumption, as Lord Darzi wrote in his report [Review of Health and Care].”

Encouragingly, Vice President Biden said that we’ve begun to “make real progress” in the fight against cancer, saying: “I can see the day where prevention is more effective, when care is personalised and side effects are less harmful. When children are vaccinated against cancer. When we can identify through markers in the blood cancers that haven’t developed yet. When we can identify early signals of cancer in the blood through fragments shred from cancer cells. There is hope.”

President Gast spoke of the discoveries Imperial is making that will change outcomes for cancer patients. Thanking Vice President Biden for his lecture, Imperial’s President Alice Gast said: “You have helped us today to launch a landmark collaboration between Imperial, the Institute of Cancer Research and Cancer Research UK. Everyone here is united in their determination to win the battle against cancer.”

Vice President Biden also detailed how the Biden Cancer Initiative, established in 2017, is building on the work of the Obama Administration’s Cancer Moonshot that raised billions of dollars to rapidly accelerate cancer research. The Bidens’ son Beau, a decorated Iraq war veteran and attorney general of Delaware, died in May 2015, aged 46, after being diagnosed with a brain tumour. Lord Darzi welcomed the Vice President to Imperial and said he had “brought extraordinary leadership to the fight against cancer”. Lord Darzi said: “You have joined the fight against cancer in the US and around the world and we are so glad you have become part of this team. You have spoken so movingly about the tragic loss of your son Beau. Your personal story has touched us all. There is no better example of turning a private grief to public good than Biden Cancer Initiative. Here at Imperial we bring together researchers from a range of distinct disciplines to transform patient care and this is exemplified by the new centre. We can achieve so much more working together than apart – we are one global team. We can make hope real. As President Obama once said – yes we can.”

The Imperial CRUK Centre is a research collaboration between Imperial College London, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and Cancer Research UK that brings together scientists, clinicians, engineers and physicists in the fight against cancer. The Centre, which brings together interdisciplinary experts, has two key themes: reducing the burden of cancer and increasing the precision of cancer treatments.