WASHINGTON, D.C --More than 600 cancer patients, survivors and their loved ones from all 50 states and nearly every congressional district will be on Capitol Hill this week to make clear to members of Congress that cancer must be a national priority. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is hosting its first in-person Leadership Summit and Lobby Day since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and advocates will urge lawmakers to increase funding for cancer research and prevention programs, improve diversity in clinical trials and create a clear pathway for Medicare coverage of future multi-cancer early detection tests once FDA approved and clinical benefit is shown.
“The 200 diseases we call cancer represent a leading cause of death and suffering, claiming the lives of more than 600,000 Americans this year,” said Dr. Karen E. Knudsen, CEO of the American Cancer Society and ACS CAN. “We need Congress to do everything possible to tackle cancer starting with providing consistent and significant increases in federal cancer research and prevention funding. It is clear that cancer research saves lives, and that the return on scientific investment is accelerated progress and improved outcomes now and in the decades to come.”
In addition to urging lawmakers to boost research and prevention funding, ACS CAN volunteer advocates will also encourage lawmakers to advance the DIVERSE Trials Act, which would improve diversity in clinical trials by ensuring trial sponsors can cover patients’ trial-associated costs, like lodging and transportation, and provide tools to enable remote participation.
“Patients overwhelmingly want to participate in clinical trials, however not all patients have equal ability to enroll. People in remote areas or those with limited incomes often cannot get to or cannot afford to join a trial, even if it is in their best clinical interest,” said Lisa Lacasse, president of ACS CAN. “Ensuring these costs and tools can be covered by the trial sponsors will make access to lifesaving clinical trials more equitable and make trials more socioeconomically, geographically, and racially diverse.”
Volunteers will also ask members to support legislation to create a pathway for Medicare to potentially cover new multi-cancer early detection tests once the Food and Drug Administration approves their use and clinical benefit is shown. While research continues to assess the impact on outcomes, including by the American Cancer Society, multi-cancer early detection screening technology may be both less invasive and more accessible and serve as a compliment to existing early detection tests. Expanding screening opportunities to traditionally underserved communities would help to reduce cancer disparities.
Tuesday evening, starting at 7:00 p.m. at the Constitution Gardens ACS CAN will host Lights of Hope, a solemn display featuring nearly 20,000 lights lining the garden’s pond, honoring cancer survivors and memorializing those who have died from the disease. Nearly 60,000 lights are being included in similar displays across the country to deliver a powerful message of hope nationwide and motivate lawmakers to act on policies that will reduce the cancer burden. Lights of Hope is made possible with the generous support of Bristol Myers Squibb.
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, are being presented to Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) for his work championing a federal fix for the Medicaid coverage gap, and Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.) for his sponsorship of the DIVERSE Trials Act and the VALID act to modernize diagnostic test oversight. Awards were also given to Maine State Reps. Kristin Cloutier, Jay McCreight, and Michelle Meyer, for their successful multi-year commitment to increase state tobacco control funding, Connecticut State Rep. Lucy Dathan for her leading role securing a $12 million investment in tobacco control program funding, and Alaska State. Rep. Ivy Spohnholz for work expanding telehealth services to the residents of her state. ACS CAN’s Judicial Advocacy Initiative award, which recognizes attorneys who generously donate their services to the cancer fight, is being given to Melissa Cook Anderson, a partner at Anderson Kreiger. The firm has been instrumental in negotiating a massive settlement between public health organizations, the Department of Justice, and Big Tobacco in litigation in which the industry was convicted of lying to the American public and will now be forced to post signage detailing the truth about their products at 195,000 tobacco retailers across the nation.
“We all know someone whose life has been affected by cancer. Making sure their experiences and voices are heard by lawmakers is an essential way to empower people to fight back against this disease,” said Maureen Mann, volunteer chair of ACS CAN’s Board of Directors. “We want lawmakers to think of their constituents’ stories and the people behind them and make a commitment to take action to defeat cancer.”