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Biden to name first woman to lead National Cancer Institute

President Biden on Wednesday will appoint Monica Bertagnolli to lead the National Cancer Institute, making her the first woman to lead the organization as the White House puts a renewed focus on fighting cancer.

Bertagnolli is a professor of surgery in the field of surgical oncology at Harvard Medical School. She previously served as the chief of the division of surgical oncology for the Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center. 

The White House announced Bertagnolli’s appointment on the same day Biden is signing legislation to expand care for veterans who suffer from illnesses because of exposure to toxins during their military service.

The issue of fighting cancer and supporting cancer research is personal to the president, whose son, Beau, died of brain cancer in 2015 at the age of 46. Biden has talked about ending cancer throughout his campaign and presidency to date, saying it would be a priority for him.

The president and first lady in February hosted a relaunch of the “Cancer Moonshot” project that Biden oversaw during the Obama administration.

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide each year, according to the National Cancer Institute, and more than 1 million people each year are diagnosed with the disease in the United States.

“I look forward to working with Dr. Bertagnolli to advance the President’s call to end cancer as we know it. Dr. Bertagnolli’s decades of cancer research expertise around patient-centered care and her work to create more inclusive clinical trials will be instrumental as we accelerate the rate of research and innovation to fight cancer,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

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