Chris Hansen, ACS CAN President

ACS CAN President Lisa Lacasse shares her views on the impact of advocacy on the cancer fight.


The Race to Beat Cancer is Both a Sprint and a Marathon

October 28, 2016

Running a marathon is not an easy task. It requires stamina, discipline and determination. It is mentally and physically exhausting and it’s something 74-year-old cancer survivor Don Wright is about to do for the 100th time next month in Philadelphia. Yet for Don the exhaustion of running 26 miles in a single day is eclipsed by gratitude for the research that has enabled him to do so.

Photo of Don WrightI first introduced you to Don last year when he was preparing for his 90th marathon. In a year’s time, he’s conquered nine additional races. “I’m not running from cancer, I’m running against it, crossing each finish line ahead of cancer,” said Don, who was diagnosed in 2003 with multiple myeloma; a rare blood cancer, for which there is no cure.

Don’s diagnosis was devastating. He went through several different treatments before eventually enrolling in a clinical trial. That trial has enabled him to manage his disease and continue living a full, active life 13 years later.

“I get emotional when I tell people that I have lived to meet my grandchildren and they know their grandpa,” said Don. 

Giving more people those kinds of results and improved treatment options is the goal of the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative.

Announced last year by President Obama and led by Vice President Biden, the Moonshot aims to accelerate a decade’s worth of cancer research in half the time. It requires the coordination of multiple stakeholders and provides Congress with an historic opportunity to build on last year’s bipartisan-supported funding increases for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).  This includes a $680 million budgetary increase for NIH and NCI as well as a $2 billion boost in mandatory cancer research funding through the 21st Century Cures legislation.  Combined, these two measures would provide the robust and sustained investment necessary to achieve the ambitious Moonshot goals, including catalyzing new scientific advances, harnessing the power of data, improving prevention and detection and accelerating patient access to new therapies and clinical trials—just like the trial that has worked for Don.

While not every research idea will result in a breakthrough and not every patient will respond like Don, his story offers Congress a strong example of what it takes to achieve the Moonshot: stamina, discipline, determination and, in Congress’s case, a commitment to increased cancer research funding.

I hope Congress keeps Don and other thriving survivors in mind when it returns to cross its own finish line next month and votes to give millions of Americans the hope they deserve to beat cancer.