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White House launches precision surgery initiative as part of ‘cancer moonshot’ effort

The Biden administration is launching a new initiative aimed at helping surgeons to distinguish and remove cancer cells without damaging surrounding tissue, in an effort to improve health outcomes for cancer patients.

The initiative is the first cancer-focused program under the administration’s multi-billion-dollar Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), and just its second program overall. It’s paired with the administration’s “cancer moonshot,” which aims to cut the cancer death rate in half by 2047.

ARPA-H and the moonshot are part of President Biden’s “unity agenda” announced during his 2022 State of the Union address to bring the country together on a bipartisan basis on issues such as combating cancer. 

The program will solicit proposals for devices and techniques to improve the visibility of cancer and healthy tissue during surgery. Multiple awards are anticipated, the White House said, and resources available will depend on the quality of the proposals received and the availability of funds.

“It’s an exciting horizon in cancer research and development that could save and extend many lives,” Biden said in a statement.

Surgery is often the first treatment option for the more than 2 million Americans diagnosed with cancer every year. However, current surgical technologies do not allow doctors to easily and fully distinguish cancer cells from normal surrounding tissue in the operating room. 

This can lead to repeat surgeries, a more difficult recovery, cancer recurrence and higher health care costs, the administration said. The precision surgical initiative aims to enable surgeons to successfully remove cancer through a single operation.  

The technologies developed will also help surgeons spot and avoid important structures such as nerves, blood vessels and lymph nodes, which can be mistakenly damaged during invasive surgical procedures, according to the White House. 

ARPA-H focuses on Alzheimer’s treatments, diabetes and other diseases and is modeled on the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. 

Source: The Hill

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