Biden’s Cancer Moonshot contributing to research in the Mid-South

Published: Mar. 24, 2022 at 5:59 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 24, 2022 at 6:00 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Biden Administration has reignited an initiative to eradicate cancer as we know it. It’s called the Cancer Moonshot.

First Lady Jill Biden will be in Memphis Friday to tout the program, but funding from the Cancer Moonshot is helping Mid-South patients now.

Cancer is prevalent in the Mid South as compared to the rest of the country. Doctors say the pandemic has exacerbated some of the cancer diagnoses. They’re seeing more people be diagnosed with more aggressive stages of cancer as many put off going to the doctor’s office during the pandemic.

Baptist Medical Group Chief Scientist Dr. Ray Osarogiagbon says the Mid-South holds a grim title.

“We’re at the heart of the cancer mortality belt,” Dr. Osarogiagbon said. “It almost doesn’t matter what cancer you’re talking about.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2020, Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas were in the top ten states with the highest death rate from cancer. Mississippi was number two.

That’s why Dr. Osarogiagbon says having cutting-edge treatment and research in those cancer patients’ backyards saves lives.

“Making that discovery and innovation available to our patients without them jumping onto an airplane to go to a far, far place is a huge need,” Dr. Osarogiagbon said.

Baptist is one of just a handful of institutes across the country expanding cancer research with money from President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot.

The program was started while Biden was Vice President and it was reignited this year with the administration aiming to have cancer deaths cut in half within 25 years by funding research. Nearly $2 billion has been put into the Cancer Moonshot.

Dr. Osarogiagbon said Baptist and five other institutes developed an app for cancer patients with a $9 million grant from the Cancer Moonshot. It allows patients and doctors to communicate in-between visits about symptoms.

“This way we wouldn’t erroneously assume they were doing fine when they weren’t,” Dr. Osarogiagbon said. “We expect that will help keep outpatients healthy.”

Preliminary data shows the app is helping patients avoid serious complications from chemotherapy and surgery according to Dr. Osarogiagbon. Work is continuing with the grant.

Now, Memphis is getting recognized in part for its leading ways in cancer research as First Lady Jill Biden gets ready to visit the city as part of the Cancer Moonshot.

Dr. Biden will be at St. Jude Children’s Research hospital Friday. Dr. Biden will also visit with the St. Jude patients from Ukraine while in Memphis.

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