Hundreds of Cancer Patients, Survivors to Congress: Make Cancer a National Priority

HHS Secretary Alex Azar, NCAA Basketball Coaches and Actress Marcia Cross Address Advocates in Nation’s Capital

September 9, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. –More than 700 cancer patients, survivors and their loved ones from all 50 states and nearly every congressional district will be on Capitol Hill this week to ask members of Congress to make the fight against cancer a national priority. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is hosting its annual Leadership Summit and Lobby Day to urge lawmakers to increase funding for cancer research and prevention programs, advance legislation that supports patients’ quality of life, ensure lifesaving colon cancer screenings are affordable for seniors and reduce tobacco use by restricting flavored tobacco products to protect kids.

“We are calling on members of Congress to do what it takes to fight a disease that will kill more than 600,000 people in America this year,” said Lisa Lacasse, president of ACS CAN. “Lawmakers can show their commitment to reducing cancer incidence and mortality through very specific actions that will have direct impact on their constituents – individuals touched by cancer in every congressional district across this country.”

The event is happening just as Congress returns from recess and is poised to vote on 2020 appropriations bills. The House Appropriations Committee already passed a bill that includes a $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and a $300 million increase for the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor Health and Human Services will mark-up its funding bill Tuesday.

“Thanks to past federal investment in the fight against cancer, research keeps moving forward and each year we’re saving more lives from this disease,” said Gary Reedy, CEO of the American Cancer Society and ACS CAN. “It’s critical to keep building on the momentum by continuing to increase federal funding for cancer research, including prevention and detection.”

In addition to urging lawmakers to boost research funding, ACS CAN volunteer advocates will also encourage lawmakers to advance legislation that supports patients’ quality of life by increasing access to palliative or supportive care, which can be provided at any age or stage of illness. They will ask Congress to close a Medicare loophole that often results in surprise costs for seniors when a polyp is found during a routine screening colonoscopy.

The advocates will also call on lawmakers to reverse the growing epidemic of youth tobacco use, including electronic cigarettes, by restricting flavored tobacco products which are appealing to kids. ACS CAN launched a new ad campaign this week that highlights the tobacco industry’s use of flavors to attract and addict youth and calls on Congress to cosponsor legislation aimed at restricting flavored tobacco products. The ad will run in print and digital national and Capitol Hill publications through Thursday.

Monday at 12:30 at the Grand Hyatt Washington, advocates will hear from U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.  Azar heads the agency with authority over NIH, Medicare, Medicaid, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration; all of which play a critical role in the nation’s fight against cancer.  

Tuesday at 7:30 a.m., NCAA Division I basketball coaches Fran McCaffery of the University of Iowa, Jamion Christian of George Washington University, and retired coach and two-time cancer survivor Dave Rose of Brigham and Young University will rally advocates as they head to Capitol Hill for meetings. The coaches are members of the Coaches vs. Cancer® program, a nationwide collaboration between the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

Tuesday evening, starting at 7:30 p.m. at the Lincoln Memorial will feature ACS CAN Lights of Hope, a solemn ceremony featuring more than 40,000 lights lining the reflecting pool, honoring cancer survivors and memorializing those who have died from the disease. Lights of Hope is made possible with the generous support of Celgene.

ACS CAN will also honor a select group of lawmakers and others who have made exemplary contributions to the cancer fight. The National Distinguished Advocacy Award, ACS CAN’s most prestigious honor, is being presented to U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) as well as Illinois State Senate President, Sen. John Cullerton, Texas State Rep. John Zerwas, M.D. and Washington State Rep. Paul Harris. ACS CAN’s Judicial Advocacy Initiative award, which recognizes attorneys who generously donate their services to the cancer fight, is being given to two attorneys from Dentons U.S. LLP, Allison Cohen and Tesch West, who have worked in support of closing the colorectal screening loophole and improving access to palliative care for patients nationwide.

“Everyone has a cancer story, whether it’s your own story or that of a family member or friend,” said Dr. Dick Deming, volunteer chair of ACS CAN’s Board of Directors. “Making sure those stories are heard in in Washington today is an important way to do something meaningful to combat this disease. We want lawmakers to hear and remember those stories and make a commitment to take action to defeat cancer.”

The event will conclude Wednesday with a keynote address from actress and cancer survivor Marcia Cross.

Media Contacts

Allison Miller
Director, Media Advocacy
Washington, D.C.
Alissa Crispino
Vice President, Media Advocacy & Communications
Washington, D.C.