Remarks by the First Lady at Columbia University Irving Medical Center with Queen Letizia of Spain in New York City

September 21, 2022

[As prepared for delivery.]

Thank you, Dr. Rustgi, for your kind introduction and for taking the time to show us the incredible work that you and your entire team are doing to fight cancer.

Queen Letizia, Ambassador Cabanas, Secretary Moreno Bau, and all of the Spanish delegation, thank you for joining us today.

Before I begin, like all Americans, I want to say that my heart is with the people of Puerto Rico who are coping with Hurricane Fiona. You are not alone or forgotten. We stand with you and we will do everything we can to help you rebuild.

Early in our Administration, Queen Letizia invited me to learn more about Spain's incredible efforts to fight cancer. So, when we traveled to Spain for the NATO summit, I flew in early to meet her. Right away, I could see how much of her heart is in this work. I was inspired by her passion, and by the cutting edge work we saw that day. Thank you, Dr. Reyes, for taking the time to show us the AECC. Your work touched my heart.

After my visit, I wanted to bring the Queen here to see what we are doing here in the United States through the Cancer Moonshot, especially as the Columbia Cancer Center works closely with researchers and clinicians in Spain.

Moments ago, we met a man named Mario. When he was 12 years old, Mario's father died of cancer. Then at 65, he heard words that can strike fear into the bravest person—the words his father had heard some 50 years before: "You have cancer."

Thankfully, Mario was treated by the amazing doctors here at Columbia. And it was a success. He was better, until he wasn't. In 2015, he was diagnosed with an even more aggressive cancer, and when the standard therapies began to fail, Mario felt himself losing hope.

That's when he met Brianne. She is a clinical trials nurse navigator. Brianne helped Mario enroll in a clinical trial here and guided him through test after test, making sure he was never alone. And as he navigated this confusing and frightening world of cancer treatment, her help made all the difference.

Mario, thank you for sharing your story, and Brianne, thank you for reminding us all just how far kindness and support can go. It's stories like that—stories about putting patients in the center of their care—that make the Columbia Cancer Center so special.

This cancer center is addressing the deep disparities in care that we've seen far too often. We've heard the statistics: life-saving treatments are often out of reach for communities like this one, for neighborhoods of color, low-income areas, or places where care is difficult to access. When it comes to clinical trials, too many people get left behind. But this Cancer Center is changing that.

Doctors and nurses are meeting patients where they are, and reaching out to ensure people in their community can access the world-class care they need. And the results speak for themselves: more than four in 10 clinical trial participants are people of color—over twice the national average.

In some ways, cancer touches us all. That's true in the United States. It's true in Spain. And it's true around the world.

Almost 30 years ago, I started to work in the cancer space when I founded the Biden Breast Health Initiative. Since then, brilliant minds from every corner of the world have made incredible leaps forward in treatments and cures, patient care, and prevention. But I've also learned that these brilliant minds aren't always working together.

The Cancer Moonshot is working to change that.

We have an ambitious goal to decrease the death rate from cancer by at least 50 percent over the next 25 years. We're working to improve the experience of patients, their families, and caregivers. And we're working to support partnerships that cross borders and oceans. Because none of us can beat cancer alone.

It takes all of us, sharing our best ideas and practices, working together to ease the burden on patients and their families, and creating the kind of care that saves lives. So, we must continue to collaborate across oceans, share knowledge, and find the hope that connects us all. Together, we can give our people the future they deserve, no matter where they call home.

Together, we can end cancer as we know it.

Thank you.

And now, it's my honor to introduce a woman who has been a tireless partner in this fight for more than a decade, who fights for the people of Spain and cancer patients around the world: Queen Letizia.

Jill Biden, Remarks by the First Lady at Columbia University Irving Medical Center with Queen Letizia of Spain in New York City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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