White lab coat with blue text that says University of California

Mitchel Berger Appointed to the President’s Cancer Panel

Mitchel Berger, MD, standing behind a podium giving a speech

Last summer, the White House announced that UCSF Brain Tumor Center director Mitchel Berger, MD, had been appointed to the President’s Cancer Panel by President Biden. The panel will now work towards the Cancer Moonshot’s goal to “end cancer as we know it.”

What is the President’s Cancer Panel?

This three-member panel of cancer experts, first established as part of the National Cancer Act of 1971, advises the President on how to use the federal government’s resources to reduce the burden of cancer. Although the panel is supported by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it runs parallel to the agency.

Instead, the panel develops the scope of the National Cancer Program, which includes all aspects of government tasked with improving cancer in addition to health care providers and cancer-related organizations across the academic, industry, and nonprofit sectors. Meetings with stakeholders from these groups help the panel identify priority issues and put forward recommendations to the President.

“This is about representing the collective national interests of cancer research, cancer management, and cancer support services” Berger said.

Mitchel Berger, MD, standing behind a podium
Mitchel Berger, MD, standing behind a podium giving a speech.

What is the Cancer Moonshot initiative?

In 2016, then-Vice President Biden launched the Cancer Moonshot Initiative with the goal of accelerating progress on cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. Berger was a member of the Blue Ribbon Panel of scientific experts created in to help steer the initiative, co-chairing its clinical trials working group. The Blue Ribbon Panel produced a report with 10 recommendations that – with the NCI’s backing – were presented to the Cancer Moonshot Task Force. The 21st Century Cure Act of 2016 then authorized the $1.8 billion in funding to support research projects and program aligned with these recommendations.

What are the Cancer Moonshot’s goals and priorities now?

Last year, President Biden relaunched the Cancer Moonshot and created a Cancer Cabinet comprised of leadership from the Biden-Harris administration as well as various federal departments and agencies ranging from the Department of Health and Human Services to the Departments of Labor and Commerce. In July, along with the appointments to the President’s Cancer Panel, the White House announced the Cancer Cabinet’s five priority actions for the Cancer Moonshot. These include closing the cancer screening gap, understanding and addressing environmental exposure, decreasing the impact of preventable cancers, bringing cutting edge research through the pipeline to patients and communities, and supporting patients and caregivers.

When can we expect a new report from the President’s Cancer Panel?

The panel will now begin the work of setting up discussions over the next few months to identify a topic relevant to the National Cancer Program and coming up with recommendations for the appropriate organizations to carry out. In previous years, reports from the panel have taken about two years to complete and submit to the President. Berger called it an honor to serve on the panel representing the neurosurgery department and UCSF.