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The Urgency of Now: The Biden Cancer Initiative Launches amidst Rapid Advances in Oncology

June 30, 2017

The Urgency of Now: The Biden Cancer Initiative Launches amidst Rapid Advances in Oncology

These are the words that drive us in health communications, and last week they were echoed by Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden as they kicked off the new Biden Cancer Initiative. Finn Partners was honored to attend the New York City launch, which highlighted the most exciting advances being made in cancer today and underscored a cultural mandate to all focused on the disease – collaborate.  

Let’s Win co-founders Allyson Ocean, MD, medical oncologist and attending physician in gastrointestinal oncology at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center and Chair of Let’s Win’s Scientific Advisory Board, and Cindy Price Gavin, Executive Director, with Vice President Biden


Like the Bidens, our clients are laser-focused on a call-to-action that leads to one thing: saving lives. In the cancer space, our clients are innovators, inventors of therapies to change life timelines. They are also changing the paradigm of cancer research and treatment. Perhaps none as boldly as Let’s Win, an unprecedented crowdsourcing platform that enables pancreatic cancer patients, doctors, and researchers to share fast-breaking information on potentially life-saving treatments and trials that go beyond the standard of care.

Through Let’s Win, patients and their families can exchange information about their diagnoses and the science-driven treatments undertaken beyond traditional clinical protocols, and share what they learn with their medical team – an approach that upends the system and demands better options for America’s third leading cancer killer.

Nearly eighty percent of pancreatic patients die within a year of diagnosis. Of the estimated 53,000 Americans who will be told they have the disease this year, almost 42,000 will die. There is no early detection test, and pancreatic cancer rarely produces symptoms in its early stages. Most patients present with advanced disease, which is considered incurable. When diagnosed, a patient is typically offered one of only three basic standard of care treatment options.  None of these have proven effective in the long term – leaving patients hopeless and helpless.

Gil Bashe, Managing Partner, Global Health; Dr. Allyson Ocean; Olivia Goodman, Vice President, Health; Cindy Price Gavin at the Biden Cancer Initiative Launch at the Alexandria Center for Life Science


Faced with few options, and with the clock ticking, many patients wish to explore new and promising evidence-backed treatment protocols. Unfortunately, many oncologists are hesitant to pursue such options for their patients. But in some academic centers and oncologist offices around the country, brave and creative oncologists are taking risks to shape treatments that prolong the lives of patients. Let’s Win empowers patients and their families by helping them evaluate and use new scientific research and connect them with these centers and oncologists.

These are the doctors and scientists – and Let’s Win is a model program – for the Biden Cancer Initiative vision. From immunology to virology to genomics, the Bidens and their leadership team are determined to marshal all of the weapons in our quiver to conquer cancer. But, it will only work if information and data is shared and easily accessible.

“When Nixon declared War on Cancer in 1971, he had good intentions. But he didn’t have the army,” says Vice President Biden. “He didn’t have the weapons to battle the disease we have today. He didn’t have the technology to connect researchers and share information with patients and doctors all over the world. After 46 years of progress, after decades of funding research, training scientists and physicians, treating millions of patients, we now have the army.”

The fact is, our research system follows an outdated model – one in which sharing is not easy or rewarded. “But the cancer system of the 20th Century must be reimagined for the 21st Century to match the breakthroughs,” say the Bidens.

Let’s Win offers an approach that answers this call and disrupts the old system. It joins the Biden Cancer Initiative and numerous other groups across the nation who recognize the urgency for cancer patients. Together, these groups expand understanding of the most intractable cancers and advocate for a new path forward – one that, as the Vice President said, “is about hope, but also action.”