Health: The Latest Incarnation of the “War on Cancer” (ARPA-H)

The Story:

In mid March 2022, a new U.S. government agency came into existence, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H). A spending bill that President Biden signed into law on March 15 includes $1 billion in funding for ARPA-H, intended to drive breakthoughs in the understanding, prevention, and treatment of Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and cancer.


A so-called “war on cancer” has been a staple of presidential administrations in the United States for decades. President Richard Nixon apparently first used that phrase, and in December 1971 Nixon signed into law the “National Cancer Act.”

The Obama administration, of which Biden was a part as Vice President, used the term “moonshot,” suggesting that the kind of concentrated money and energy that got Americans to the moon could get us to a healthier. and cancer-free, world.

In Pill Form:

Unfortunately, the reason presidents can keep announcing such programs is that certain diseases, cancer and the other two named in Biden’s announcement especially, have proven resistant to them. Cancer rates have fallen in recent decades, most likely as a consequence of the decline of tobacco smoking, which was still a once-ubiquitous habit. at the time Nixon signed the 1971 Act. But a direct attack on cancer … a cure … may still be distant.

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