Hundreds of Cancer Advocates Converge on Capitol Hill to Urge Lawmakers to Make Cancer a National Priority

September 22, 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- September 22, 2008 -- More than 500 cancer patients, survivors, caregivers and their families from all 50 states will unite tomorrow to lobby their members of Congress in support of policies that will help prevent and fight cancer. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is hosting its annual leadership summit and lobby day to give volunteers the opportunity to meet face to face with their elected officials and urge them to support ACS CAN's lifesaving federal initiatives that are critical to reducing suffering and death from cancer.

"Our volunteers represent cancer patients and caregivers from every corner of the country who know, first-hand, the urgent need to enact laws that will sustain and promote progress in the fight against cancer," said Dr. John Seffrin, CEO of The American Cancer Society and ACS CAN. "Advocates are asking elected officials to be a partner in this fight and to make the necessary government investment to win the war on cancer."

Advocates will urge their members of Congress to give the Food and Drug Administration the broad authority to regulate the manufacture and marketing of tobacco products, virtually the only consumable products not regulated by the federal government.

After an historic decade-long fight, the House of Representatives in July passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Act. The measure is now pending before the Senate, putting Congress closer than ever to passing the landmark legislation that would put a stop to Big Tobacco's deceptive and manipulative marketing practices, which have preyed on children and misled the public about the harm of tobacco for decades.

Tobacco use is responsible for nearly one in five deaths and will kill approximately 440,000 Americans this year alone.

Advocates will also push Congress to increase the federal investment in medical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and in funding for cancer prevention and early detection programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

NIH and NCI funding for critical cancer research has been flat-funded for five straight years, jeopardizing the progress made in the fight against cancer over the past 20 years. Adjusting for inflation, funding for NIH has fallen by 11 percent since 2003. Cancer-specific research at NCI has fallen by 14 percent in that timeframe. Funding for the CDC National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program has fallen by over 10 percent, and last year for the first time, fewer women were screened than during the preceding year.

ACS CAN, the non-partisan advocacy partner of the Society, also strongly supports new legislation (H.R. 6791) recently introduced by Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY) and Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) that would create a National Cancer Fund paid for by an increase in the federal tobacco tax. The bill would raise $7 billion each year in new money for cancer research, prevention and early detection and access to care.

"Our government is an essential partner in the fight against cancer, perhaps the most crucial ally we have. But lately it seems that lawmakers are not doing all they can," said Daniel E. Smith, president of ACS CAN. "Our cancer advocates are coming to Capitol Hill to push for their elected officials' commitment to voting for strong public policies that will advance the progress our country is making against cancer."

Before meeting with their legislators, cancer advocates will go through training on communicating with elected officials, speaking with the media and engaging in grassroots activities in their districts.

Advocates will also be on hand for the presentation of ACS CAN's National Distinguished Advocacy Award. This year's award recipients are Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and State Senator Jane Nelson (R-TX). The National Distinguished Advocacy Award is ACS CAN's most prestigious advocacy award bestowed to any public official and is awarded for leadership in the fight against cancer.

A reception honoring the recipients of these awards will be held Tuesday, September 23 at 6 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City, Crystal City, VA.

ACS CAN is the non-profit, non-partisan advocacy partner organization of the American Cancer Society, which is dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage lawmakers, candidates and government officials to support laws and policies that will make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer. For more information, visit

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