Advocates Hold Cancer Action Day at Capitol, Urging Lawmakers to Expand Access to Biomarker Testing & Paid Medical Leave, Address Medical Debt

May 7, 2024

Earlier today, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) volunteers rallied at the Pennsylvania State Capitol as a part of their annual Cancer Action Day advocating for several legislative proposals that aim to address the needs of patients across the cancer continuum. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) gives people impacted by cancer a powerful voice with lawmakers by holding an annual Cancer Action Day. 

At the start of the day, advocates were honored with a resolution, sponsored by Representative Jordan Harris and Senator Lynda Culver, that officially designates May 7, 2024 as Cancer Action Day in Pennsylvania. Both Rep. Harris and Sen. Culver shared what motivated them to honor cancer survivors and patients advocates in this way.

“Cancer is a leading cause of death in the United States and studies are predicting that over 2 million people will be diagnosed with cancer this year. I am sponsoring Senate Resolution 275 to raise awareness, promote early detention and encourage advancements in treatments,” said Senator Culver.

Topping the list of priorities for this year’s Cancer Action Day were three proposals that seek to promote Pennsylvanians’ ability to prevent, detect and survive cancer. Respectively, the proposals will improve access to biomarker testing (SB 954/HB 1754), establish a paid family and medical leave program (HB 181/SB 580) and reduce the toll of medical debt (HB 78).

Volunteers met with lawmakers to discuss the power of biomarker testing to connect patients with the precision medicine treatments that have proven to reduce cancer patients’ risk of death and improve quality of life. ACS CAN volunteer Michael Hu shared his story with stage IV lung cancer and the role that biomarker testing has played in his treatment and survivorship.

“Biomarker testing is a major part of why I’m here today,” said Hu. “Thankfully, I was able to receive financial assistance for my biomarker testing. Without this assistance, I would not have been able to start my treatment off on the right foot or shift to a more appropriate medication to accommodate my disease progression.”

Applications of biomarker testing extend beyond cancer to preeclampsia, arthritis and other autoimmune and rare diseases. Representative Kyle Mullins is sponsoring HB 1754 alongside Minority Leader Bryan Cutler. Rep. Mullins recently lost his father to ALS and Leader Cutler lost both of his parents to the disease.  

Senator Devlin Robinson is the sponsor of the companion biomarker bill in the Senate (SB 954) alongside Senator Lisa Boscola. Sen. Robinson is also championing legislation to establish a paid family and medical leave program (HB 181/SB 580).

Dr. Jennifer Johnson, Co-Founder and Medical Co-Director of the Precision Medicine Initiative at the Sydney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Jefferson Health, highlighted the importance of improving Pennsylvanians’ access to paid family and medical leave and alleviating their medical debt.

“If we are able to improve patients’ access to the quality care they need without fear of impacting their employment, then we can begin to address the pervasive, financially toxic issue of medical debt,” said Dr. Johnson.

Currently, about 1 million Pennsylvanians struggle with medical debt, including Kris McConnell who has been dealing with medical debt since she and her husband needed surgery last year.

“When we began receiving bills, it was just overwhelming. The cost was astronomical - and the bills were very confusing and hard to interpret,” said McConnell.

Representative Arvind Venkat is sponsoring HB 78 to establish a program which could provide relief to families like the McConnells.



The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) makes cancer a top priority for policymakers at every level of government. ACS CAN empowers volunteers across the country to make their voices heard to influence evidence-based public policy change that improves the lives of people with cancer and their families. We believe everyone should have a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer. Since 2001, as the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN has successfully advocated for billions of dollars in cancer research funding, expanded access to quality affordable health care, and advanced proven tobacco control measures. We’re more determined than ever to stand together with our volunteers to end cancer as we know it, for everyone. Join the fight by visiting


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Casey Oneill
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