On Tuesday, speaking in Ottumwa, Iowa, former Vice President Joe Biden decided to endorse hyperbole in theatrical fashion, promising his audience that as president he would do something no human had ever done before: cure cancer.
Biden rhapsodized, “I’ve worked so hard in my career that I promise you, if I’m elected president you’re gonna see (the) single most important thing that changes America, we’re gonna cure cancer,” according to The Washington Examiner.
As vice president, Biden supervised the “Cancer Moonshot” initiative; after leaving office, Biden oversaw the Biden Cancer Initiative.
Biden’s bombastic rhetoric was reminiscent of Barack Obama’s famous “rise of the oceans began to slow “ 2008 nomination victory speech, in which he lauded himself like this:
The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. I face this challenge with profound humility and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and I believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth.
As Medical News Today explained in 2018, there are numerous methods that are being tried to combat cancer: chemotherapy; radiotherapy; tumor surgery and hormonal therapy. Newer techniques include immunotherapy (but the difficulty lies in cancer cells fooling the immune system into “ignoring them”); therapeutic viruses (but they are difficult to control); using nanoparticles to target cancer cells, and starving cancer cells of nutrients.
But according to the National Cancer Institute, there are over one hundred kinds of cancer: “There are more than 100 types of cancer. Types of cancer are usually named for the organs or tissues where the cancers form. For example, lung cancer starts in cells of the lung, and brain cancer starts in cells of the brain. Cancers also may be described by the type of cell that formed them, such as an epithelial cell or a squamous cell.”
The plethora of cancers imply that dealing with them all likely defies the capacity of a “silver bullet” that can wipe them all out. As Live Science noted, “There are many different causes, ranging from radiation to chemicals to viruses; an individual has varying degrees of control over exposure to cancer-causing agents. Cancer cells, and how they grow, remain unpredictable and in some cases mysterious. Even after seemingly effective treatments, crafty cancer cells are able to hide out in some patients and resurface.”
This is not to gainsay Biden’s determination to see cancer wiped out, only to say that to promise a cure for cancer in order to win votes does seem to be rather self-aggrandizing.