Listening session room at Fred Hutch
Fred Hutch hosted a listening session with Dr. Jill Biden in this room of the Arnold Building (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Good after­noon, hap­py autumn, and wel­come to our con­tin­u­ing cov­er­age of First Lady Jill Biden’s Sep­tem­ber 2023 vis­it to Seattle.

The NPI team is here at the Fred Hutchin­son Can­cer Research Cen­ter, where Dr. Biden just com­plet­ed a cam­pus tour and spoke to reporters about the Biden-Har­ris admin­is­tra­tion’s Can­cer Moon­shot, an ini­tia­tive which holds per­son­al sig­nif­i­cance for them giv­en their late son Beau’s bat­tle with cancer.

“Accel­er­at­ing the fight against can­cer is a core com­po­nent of the President’s Uni­ty Agen­da, a set of pri­or­i­ties that Amer­i­cans from every walk of life can sup­port,” the White House says. (Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate read­ers may recall that the Pres­i­dent empha­sized the Uni­ty Agen­da in his last State of the Union address.)

“Since the start of the Admin­is­tra­tion, the First Lady has par­tic­i­pat­ed in more than forty Can­cer Moon­shot engage­ments and has vis­it­ed six­teen cities in almost a dozen states. This includes a vis­it to the Sylvester Com­pre­hen­sive Can­cer Cen­ter in Broward Coun­ty, Flori­da last Octo­ber to high­light breast can­cer survivorship.”

The First Lady’s office not­ed in an advance press brief­ing for reporters that Dr. Biden’s advo­ca­cy for can­cer edu­ca­tion and pre­ven­tion began in 1993, when four of her friends were diag­nosed with breast cancer.

Fol­low­ing that year, she launched the Biden Breast Health Ini­tia­tive to edu­cate Delaware high school girls about the impor­tance of can­cer prevention.

Nat­u­ral­ly, her advo­ca­cy and enthu­si­asm for defeat­ing can­cer con­tin­ues today.

The First Lady’s vis­it to Fred Hutch began with a tour of the lab­o­ra­to­ry of Dr. Cyrus Gha­jar. Dr. Gha­jar and a few mem­bers of his research team briefed Dr. Biden on their work. Their research focus­es on metasta­t­ic breast can­cer among breast can­cer sur­vivors and is sup­port­ed with a Depart­ment of Defense grant.

The First Lady was accom­pa­nied on the tour by sev­er­al guests: King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Dow Con­stan­tine, Dr. Thomas Lynch, Pres­i­dent and Direc­tor of Fred Hutch, and Leigh Mor­gan, Chair of the Board of Direc­tors of Fred Hutch.

Accord­ing to pool reporter Elise Taka­hama, Biden looked through a micro­scope to see bone mar­row sam­ples from breast can­cer patients, and spoke with lab researchers about how they use var­i­ous mark­ers to pro­file patients’ cells.

Lat­er, Dr. Biden spoke with a group of Fred Hutch sci­en­tists, and a breast can­cer sur­vivor, about next steps in pedi­atric oncol­o­gy, can­cer sur­vivor­ship and decreas­ing the finan­cial bur­den of care.

Dr. Biden agreed that pre­ven­tion is key and that after the rate of can­cer screen­ings fell dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, “We’ve got to catch up.”

Lynch and Biden then joined a Fred Hutch team for a lis­ten­ing ses­sion which was attend­ed by rep­re­sen­ta­tives of many media orga­ni­za­tions, includ­ing NPI.

Par­tic­i­pants included:

  • Dr. Scott Bak­er, Direc­tor of the Fred Hutch Sur­vivor­ship Program
  • Dr. Nan­cy David­son, Fred Hutch’s Exec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent of Clin­i­cal Affairs
  • Leah Mar­coe, Breast Can­cer Survivor
  • Dr. Veena Shankaran, Co-Direc­tor of the Hutchin­son Insti­tute for Can­cer Out­comes Research
  • Dr. Rachel Yung, Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor in the Clin­i­cal Research Division
  • Dr. Dou­glas Hawkins, Chair of the Children’s Oncol­o­gy Group (COG) and Clin­i­cian at Seat­tle Children’s

Biden offered intro­duc­to­ry remarks from the podi­um before join­ing the Fred Hutch team in a set of easy chairs for a discussion.

“Of all the things can­cer steals from us, time is the cru­elest. We can’t afford to wait anoth­er minute for bet­ter solu­tions, bet­ter treat­ments, bet­ter cures,” Biden told the Fred Hutch team and the assem­bled media representatives.

“That’s why my hus­band, Pres­i­dent Biden, and I reignit­ed the Biden Can­cer Moon­shot – our White House ini­tia­tive to build a world where can­cer is not a death sen­tence. Where we stop can­cer before it starts. Where we catch it ear­ly and help peo­ple live longer, health­i­er, hap­pi­er lives. Where we invest in inno­v­a­tive research and help patients and their fam­i­lies nav­i­gate this journey.”

“For sur­vivors, that jour­ney doesn’t end when they are declared “can­cer free.” Side effects from treat­ment and the con­stant fear of that next doctor’s appoint­ment linger through remis­sion. But with research and the right care for sur­vivors, we can mit­i­gate those side effects and help ease those fears.”

“That’s what’s hap­pen­ing here at Fred Hutch, where researchers are work­ing to pre­vent breast can­cer from com­ing back and metas­ta­siz­ing in sur­vivors, and where clin­i­cians are sup­port­ing sur­vivors with qual­i­ty care that’s designed to meet their unique needs,” the First Lady emphasized.

This post will be updated.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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