2008 War on Cancer Bill Aims to Improve Research, Treatment and Follow-up Care
What do U.S. Senators Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) have in common?
Not their choice of which Presidential candidate to stump for, certainly. Not gender. Not geography.
But they do have a common interest: cancer. Senator Kennedy for obvious reasons: he has an inoperable brain tumor. Senator Hutchison for unknown reasons—she has no apparent personal connection with cancer. But she’s been a long-time Congressional advocate for cancer research funding and other cancer-friendly initiatives, including sponsorship of the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program.
In fact, last year Hutchison received the Capitol Dome Award from the American Cancer Society, in recognition of her 2005 sponsorship of the Patient Navigator, Outreach and Chronic Disease Prevention Act, signed into law by President Bush in 2005. This legislation connects the medically underserved (low-income, uninsured, racial and ethnic minorities, and rural populations) to health care resources by providing them with a “navigator” to assist them as they make their way through the often confusing health care system. The program has proved particularly successful with cancer patients, who must juggle multiple types of treatments, often for an extended period of time.
So, Sens. Kennedy and Hutchison are united by an interest in cancer. And now they’re co-sponsoring a bill in Congress, set to be introduced this fall, that will reinvigorate America’s “war on cancer,” declared by President Richard Nixon back in 1971. The bill will “address the shortcomings in the structure of cancer research, treatment, and follow-up care.” According to the Web site set up to track passage of the bill, cancerbill.org, its goals are as follows:
•Advancing cancer research and removing barriers that impede it;
• Expanding programs to prevent cancer;
• Improving access to early detection measures and early treatment;
• Reducing disparities in cancer treatment;
• Increasing enrollment in clinical trials;
• Encouraging accelerated delivery of medications and treatment from the laboratory to the patient;
• Improving the coordination of care during and after treatment;
• Encouraging workforce growth in oncology in research and clinical services;
• Assuring access to affordable cancer care.
Particulars of the bill include increased funding for the National Cancer Institute; raising participation in clinical trials; investment in programs that promote healthy behaviors; improving access to early detection; and encouraging more medical professionals to enter the oncology field, which is currently experiencing a workforce shortage.
The bill was presented in committee last May, at which time both Lance Armstrong and Elizabeth Edwards testified in its favor. A number of cancer organizations have lent their active support, including Susan Komen for the Cure, and Breast Cancer Network of Strength (formerly Y-Me). Meanwhile, Congress returned from its summer vacation last month, ready to go back to work.
Which legislators will support this bill? Which will oppose it? Will it eventually pass? Track the bill’s progress by signing up for email updates at CancerBill.org. And let’s all hope that this important legislation doesn’t get lost in the election shuffle.