The importance of investing in childhood cancer research

Posted on September 5, 2017 16:27 pm CDT

Billy Long (Long's Short Report)

 

While great strides have been made against cancer over the years, much more lies ahead to be done. Cancer affects most everyone, whether a friend, relative or even yourself, many have experienced its devastating effects. In the U.S. alone, approximately 15,700 children are diagnosed with cancer each year. The National Cancer Institute estimates that 10,270 children under the age of 14 will be diagnosed with cancer this year. While protocols have made great strides and survival rates have improved significantly, still, sadly, 1,190 of these children won’t survive. No child should have to go through this, and no parent should have to watch their child suffer.

I recently cosponsored the Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access, and Research (STAR) Act. This bill would expand childhood cancer research, enhance the lives of children who survive cancer, and improve efforts of reporting childhood cancer. It also ensures children have access to compassionate use policies, which are treatments that are still in development.

By the time a child in the U.S. turns 20, one in 285 will be diagnosed with cancer. That statistic alone is reason enough to expand research for childhood cancer. However, there are challenges when it comes to accomplishing this. Limited resources and smaller population of cancer patients have drastically affected the amount of research that’s available. The Childhood Cancer STAR Act would expand the National Cancer Institute’s ongoing research efforts and collect vital information on children participating in clinical trials.

This bill would also expand research and resources for children who survive cancer as they age. More than 95 percent of children who survive cancer will have a related health issue, such as a secondary cancer or organ damage, before the age of 45. Typically, this is related to the cancer itself or the type of treatment they received. The Childhood Cancer STAR Act would increase research on aging childhood cancer survivors. It would also establish a pilot program that works towards establishing programs that care for cancer survivors as they age.

It’s equally important to make sure that childhood cancer is being properly monitored and reported. With limited research, every child matters. This bill would expand upon current efforts by authorizing grants to states to establish cancer registries that will help better track childhood cancer.

Finally, this bill would ensure a child has access to compassionate use policies. If a child is unable to receive treatment that works, they would have the ability to access treatment that is either still in development or outside the clinical trial setting. Over the last 37 years, fewer than 10 drugs have been developed for children with cancer.

The good news is in the U.S. alone more than 80 percent of children diagnosed with cancer become long-term cancer survivors. I look forward to increasing that percentage by passing bills like the Childhood Cancer STAR Act. I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure its passage in the House and the Senate and signed into law by the president.

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