Congressman Rick Nolan

Representing the 8th District of Minnesota
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Duluth News Tribune: Biden meets privately with group in Duluth to discuss cancer moonshot effort

Nov 1, 2016
In The News

After Vice President Joe Biden spoke publicly to a crowd at the University of Minnesota Duluth on Friday, he met briefly and privately with a group on a topic that's close to his heart.

"It was personal — personal for him, and personal for a lot of us who work with cancer," said Patti Maguire of Duluth, a volunteer with the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network.

Maguire was among about 15 people, she said, hastily assembled over the previous couple of days to meet with Biden about the moonshot against cancer launched by President Barack Obama in this year's State of the Union address with Biden at the helm.

Biden spent only about five minutes with the group, which was gathered in a classroom not far from the political rally at the Romano Gymnasium, Maguire said. But they spent about an hour with Don Graves, senior policy adviser for Biden's Cancer Moonshot Task Force.

She said she spoke to Graves about palliative care — specialized care to provide relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness.

"We have a bill asking for more funding for palliative care doctors so people can have a continuum of care once they're diagnosed," Maguire said.

After Biden arrived, he spoke briefly to the group and greeted participants individually, Maguire said.

The meeting included representatives from the American Lung Association, lung cancer foundation Breath of Hope, local breast cancer nonprofit Circle of Hope and medical school researchers and others, Maguire said.

Also present was Rep. Rick Nolan's daughter, Katherine Bensen, who is living with Stage IV lung cancer.

"She was able to talk about her cancer," Maguire said. "She looks great. ... (Her treatments) seem to be working right now."

Biden, too, has a personal connection to cancer. His son, Beau Biden, died last year of brain cancer.

Maguire and others were summoned to the meeting on Wednesday, being told that "somebody was coming to town" to talk about the initiative. She didn't realize until Thursday that the "somebody" was Biden.

"It's pretty amazing," she said.

When Cancer Action Network staff in the Twin Cities got the invitation from Nolan's office, "we were, 'Let's get some gas in the car and come on up,' " said Matt Schafer, vice president of government relations for the organization's Midwest division.

He was encouraged that both Biden and Graves promised the moonshot's goal of accomplishing 10 years of progress against cancer in five years won't be abandoned with the end of the Obama administration, Schafer said.

Biden himself made a strong impression, he added.

"I've never seen his speaking style up close before, and I can say he's incredibly engaging and incredibly candid," Schafer said. "It was exciting to hear from him straight-forward that the moonshot isn't something that's going to end in January."