Joe Biden

Remarks in an Exchange With Reporters During a Tour of the Radiation Oncology Department of the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute in Columbus, Ohio

March 23, 2021

[The President's remarks were joined in progress.]

The President's Involvement With Cancer Research Initiatives/Hazards Faced by Deployed U.S. Servicemembers

Q. Sir, is it comforting or is it hopeful or more painful for you to hear about cancer developments like this?

The President. It's mostly hopeful, because I don't want to see anybody go through what my son went through.

One of the things you should be aware of: There are probably more soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines coming home with brain cancers than any time in American history because of exposure. Some of you have read about the book "Burn Pits." There's a lot of research that still has to be done to determine whether or not exposure to these toxins in the air have had something to do with it. Also, you have an awful lot of these IEDs have caused trauma—brain trauma in other ways as well.

So it really is something that I think is going to encourage us to spend a lot more time in the Government focusing on. A little bit like, you know, what used to have to with Agent Orange: You'd have to prove that, even though you were drenched in it and it rained on you, that whatever your problem was, was a consequence of that. It was very hard to prove. I finally got a bill passed, as a Senator, saying, if you were drenched, you're automatically assumed, whatever your problem is, related to that.

Same thing now with an IED. If you were near a concussion, you have a problem with brain—it's assumed the Government has responsibility for it. And—but there's a lot going on, and the doc could tell you more.

But something that really excites me, Doc, is the idea that we're moving into potential immunotherapy initiatives that—what they did with Beau, they injected an adenovirus into the brain.

Radiation Oncology Department Chair Arnab Chakravarti. Yes. Exactly.

The President. And it—they were—they were giddy, initially, at all of the—the human body coming in to eat up the virus, but it just kept going. And because there had been some damage from radiation on a blood vessel, it—things got—it didn't work.

But there's real hope for people. There's real hope.

Dr. Chakravarti. And, Mr. President, with this FLASH therapy, there's more—much more synergism with immune therapy than with conventional radiation——

The President. Yes, I agree with that.

Dr. Chakravarti. ——we're finding.

The President. Not that I agree. I don't mean like—as if I—matters what I agree on.

Dr. Chakravarti. And our Proton Center, which will be—will treat our first patient 2023—will have FLASH capabilities. So it will combine the benefits of protons, FLASH, and immunotherapy together. So——

The President. Explain the difference between a proton and radiation going to——

Dr. Chakravarti. Yes, great question. Great question.

The President. It's really important.

Dr. Chakravarti. Yes. So with conventional radiation therapy, like this unit right behind you, sir, this produces high-level X-ray energy radiation that's penetrative. It goes through normal tissues as well as tumor. So everything is treated: normal tissues and tumor together.

With proton therapy, the dose stops right at the tumor so you're not treating normal tissues. So it's a major advancement in the treatment of cancers.

The President. And treating normal tissue sometimes is a very bad thing. Just—it also—it can destroy the normal tissue. It can destroy the cancer—hit that—but it goes through the cancer and destroys whatever is beyond it. Not just in the brain, but wherever that is.

And so that's why I think some of the—a few of the Nobel laureates on my cancer facility are—would argue that we should get—we should start to focus on proton.

Dr. Chakravarti. Yes.

The President. And because it doesn't have the same application, but it does less damage when it occurs—when there is damage done.

And—but it really is one of my regrets of becoming President: I had to give up the Biden Cancer Initiative, because I couldn't raise any money for it. But we proposed—there's literally six Nobel laureates on the board. A group of people that are like the Doc. I tried—I almost called you to ask for you—it's a long story but——

Dr. Chakravarti. Yes, yes.

The President. And—but it is something that there's a lot—these guys are on the edge of so many things. Think about it: Jimmy Carter was declared basically gone 5 times. Obviously, he's in trouble now, but it's amazing that—you know, it's a little bit like—it's why you should never give up hope. When the breakthrough comes, it just comes through. Not planned—it's just, "Whoa, we've got it."

Dr. Chakravarti. Yes.

The President. Anyway. I'm talking too much.

Gun Control Legislation

Q. Mr. President, do you believe you have the political capital to make changes on gun measures right now?

The President. I hope so.

Q. Are you——

The President. I don't know. I haven't done any counting yet.

[The tour continued, and no transcript was provided.]

NOTE: The President spoke at 3:49 p.m. In his remarks, he referred to former President Jimmy Carter.

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks in an Exchange With Reporters During a Tour of the Radiation Oncology Department of the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute in Columbus, Ohio Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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