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Biden Urges Global Focus on Cancer as a 'Constant Emergency'

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, April 29, 2016.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Friday sought to focus the global community's attention on cancer research, calling the disease a "constant emergency" and urging that new treatments be made available more quickly.

Biden, addressing a conference on regenerative medicine at the Vatican, said that "as we stand on the cusp of unprecedented scientific and technological change of amazing discoveries that were once unimaginable breakthroughs, we cannot forget that real lives and real people are at the heart and reason for all that we do."

More than 3,000 people die from cancer each day in the United States alone, the vice president said.

Pope Francis made his own plea for stepped-up cancer research, stressing the need to combat a system that he said prioritizes profits over human life.

"We need to oppose an economy of exclusion and inequality that victimizes people when the mechanism of profit prevails over that of human life," the pontiff said. "This is why the globalization of indifference must be countered with the globalization of empathy."

Last year, Biden lost a son, former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, to brain cancer, and months later he called for a major effort to find a cure for cancer — characterizing the project as a "moonshot" — when he announced he wouldn't run for president.

The American Cancer Society reports that more than 1.6 million new cases will be diagnosed in 2016 and close to 600,000 people will die of the disease in the U.S.