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.
President Carter's Diagnosis Highlights Importance of Increased Federal Funding for Cancer Research
This morning, Former President Jimmy Carter bravely sat in a room full of reporters and announced that he has melanoma, which has been found on his liver and now in his brain. He begins radiation treatment this afternoon, and his doctors will continue to conduct scans to determine where the melanoma originated. Our thoughts are with him and his family as he begins treatment and fights back against this disease.
President Carter addresses the news media Thursday morning. One thing that Former President Carter said during this morning's press conference that has stuck with me is his appreciation for his doctors and the top-notch cancer centers that are collaborating on his treatment. These cancer centers rely on federal funding for research into cancer prevention and treatment. Past federal investment in research has led to detection tools and treatments that have improved survival rates and quality of life for a number types of cancer. As American Cancer Society Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Len Lichtenfeld points out, when Mr. Carter was president the research infrastructure was just being put in place to study how to utilize the immune system to treat melanoma. This led to the development of immunotherapy drugs over the past several years, one of which is the melanoma drug Former President Carter is receiving. While this research process has taken time, without that initial investment in the study of the immune system in the 1970s, we would not have made the progress we've made today in understanding how the immune system works and can be harnessed to treat cancer. Unfortunately, federal funding for cancer research has declined more than 22 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars since 2003, forcing cancer centers to delay promising clinical trials and drying up the grant pool relied upon by researchers. Without this critical funding, we can't continue to make the progress against diseases like the one Former President Carter is fighting. I'm encouraged that the climate in Congress appears to be positively shifting towards addressing this decline in funding. Before they left for August recess, the U.S. House passed the 21st Century Cures Act, legislation that includes $1.75 billion in mandatory funding for the medical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for each of the next five years. Thousands of ACS CAN volunteers from across the country called, emailed and contacted their members of Congress through social media urging support of the 21st Century Cures bill, and I'm confident that their efforts contributed to the strong support for the increase in medical research funding. The legislation's infusion of funding for NIH and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is long overdue, and it reflects the broad bipartisan consensus that making research a national priority will lead to advances in the detection and treatment of chronic diseases such as cancer. I'm hopeful that the Senate will take up this bill and make this much-needed funding for cancer research a reality for Former President Carter and the more than 1.6 million Americans who will be diagnosed with cancer this year.