Mariah Forster Olson, an ACS CAN Ambassador Constituent Team Lead (ACT Lead), traveled to Washington, D.C. this week to share her story as a childhood cancer survivor and to advocate on behalf of other patients and survivors during the 2019 Childhood Cancer Action Days.
From Bench to Bedside: Progress at Risk
With across-the-board-federal budget cuts through sequestration set to take effect in less than a month, ACS CAN is strongly urging lawmakers to avert the cuts because of their potentially devastating impact on cancer research. In fact, sequestration would reduce federal funding for cancer research to 2008 levels, and that's without taking into account the increased cost of doing medical research year after year. This severe decrease in funding could halt promising clinical trials and allow breakthroughs in the fight to defeat cancer to languish in labs. To illustrate just how crucial federal funding is for cancer research, ACS CAN released a new report this week, Catalyst for Cures: How Federally Funded Cancer Research Saves Lives. This report underscores the threat posed by sequestration to future progress in the fight to end death and suffering from cancer by highlighting federally-funded scientists who have discovered new ways to treat specific cancers, including breast cancer, melanoma and lung cancer and the patients who benefited from those advances. We brought some of the individuals highlighted in the report to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday for a Capitol Hill briefing to release the report. Congressman Ed Markey from Massachusetts sponsored the event and spoke passionately about the lifeline federal funding provides to hundreds of researchers in his district who are working to find cures for what Americans fear most diseases including cancer that can take their family members from them.
Dr. Andres Forero joined us from the University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Cancer Center, where he led the team that discovered and developed tigatuzumab, a protein that targets specific receptors in triple-negative cancer cells. Tigatuzumab kills approximately 85 percent of triple-negative breast cancer cell lines, giving women fighting a particularly aggressive and previously drug-resistant form of breast cancer a fighting chance.
One of the most compelling voices at the briefing was that of Lisa Bender, a breast cancer survivor from Minnesota who was diagnosed when she was 3-months pregnant with her now 2-year-old daughter. She spoke about how Herceptin, a drug developed through basic research that attaches to the cancer-causing HER2 protein and activates immune cells in the cancer fight, is her miracle, giving her twice the chance at life.
Also on the panel were Sandi Cassese (seated next to Lisa in the picture above), ACS CAN board member and a nurse for the Health Quest Hospital System in New York, and Dr. Helen Sabzevari, global head of oncology-immunotherapy at EMD Serono. Sandi shared her personal experience working with patients every day who rely on research to manage their symptoms and prolong their life. Dr. Sabzevari works in the growing, promising field of cancer vaccines that is responsible for such research advancements as the HPV vaccine.
In addition to inspiring cancer research success stories, the report illustrates that investment in cancer research is also a tremendous driver in the American economy supporting nearly 433,000 jobs in every state at universities and cancer centers across the country. As the sequestration deadline nears we'll continue to promote this report to our nation's lawmakers so they can see that supporting cancer research funding means not only saving lives, but saving jobs. Resting on past progress is not an option with 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women still expected to hear the words you have cancer in his or her lifetime.