Leading Cancer Advocacy Organization Urges North Carolina U.S. Senate Candidates to Make Fighting Cancer a National Priority

Cancer Patients and Survivors Meet Virtually with U.S. Senate Candidate Thom Tillis as Part of National Voter Education Program to Discuss Cancer Issues

September 21, 2020

RALEIGH, NC — September 21, 2020— Cancer patients, survivors and volunteer advocates from across North Carolina met virtually Saturday morning with U.S. Senate candidate Sen. Thom Tillis to discuss policies and issues that are critical to fighting cancer.

The meeting was part of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) Cancer Votes campaign—the nation’s leading voter education program informing the public and candidates about the actions lawmakers should take to make fighting cancer a national priority.

The open dialogue between the candidate and ACS CAN volunteers also presented a special opportunity for cancer advocates to speak to the additional challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has presented to cancer patients, survivors and their families as well as hear where Sen. Tillis stands on legislative issues specific to cancer. ACS CAN also issued an invitation to Cal Cunningham to meet with volunteers.

Each individual shared how they have been affected by health care policies in hopes of educating the candidate on key issues. Participants included and spoke to Sen. Tillis about the following:

(5:20 – 6:47) Funding for cancer research

John Tramontin, ACS CAN State Lead Ambassador and past caregiver for his father who passed away from pancreatic cancer spoke to the importance of supporting cancer research and its impact on patients today and into the future.

Sen. Tillis shared his thoughts, “Every dollar that we invest in research I believe has a return on investment. That’s why I’ve supported increases to the National Institute of Health and will continue to.”

“We need to recognize this ecosystem of research is critically important for us to get the therapies and the cures that will save millions of people.”

(6:47 – 12:21) Protecting people with pre-existing conditions should ACA be overturned

DonnaMarie Woodson, a colon and breast cancer survivor who benefited from the Affordable Care Act opened the floor for Sen. Tillis to share his plan to protect cancer patients and those with pre-existing conditions should the act be overturned

Sen. Tillis shared his thoughts, “The real question is whether or not we can get enough members to simply vote on putting that (legislation to protect people with pre-existing conditions) into the statutes independent from the law that could potentially be struck down by the Supreme Court.”

(13:03 – 19:43) Medicaid expansion in North Carolina

Hananiel Setiawan, a doctoral student at Duke University studying biomedical research parents benefitted from insurance coverage received under Medicaid expansion

Sen. Tillis shared his thoughts, “We fix it [Medicaid] first to make sure the promises we made have been fulfilled, and then once you convince me you fixed it, then you should have a discussion about providing healthcare to other people through expansion of Medicaid or -- what I was talking with Donna about -- through expansion of a national program that provides access to more affordable care.”

“When I made the statement that ‘now we have put Medicaid on sound footing’ then I would encourage the legislature to look at ways to provide other healthcare options.”

“And now, Han, I think that we should particularly now with the stress that we have on the system with COVID-19. Access to health care is critically important.”

“As you know that’s a decision that ultimately gets made by the state legislature and the governor, but I’ve said that the facts have changed and we should always look at ways – whether it’s the expansion of Medicaid or other mechanisms – we have to expand access to healthcare.”

(19:53 – 26:39) Rural healthcare

Rhonda Ferrell,
Warsaw resident and retired nurse who spoke to the challenges of accessing care in rural areas

Sen. Tillis shared his thoughts, “We also made it a priority to ensure that [resources for health care communities] was equitably distributed between rural and urban areas. But North Carolina we’re about 50 percent rural, 50 percent urban. I think in any of the future funding for healthcare we always need to have that balance.”

(26:48 – 30:48) Equity in clinical trials

Sen. Tillis shared his thoughts, “I feel so strongly that we have to strike a balance so that they have the resources to get a diverse group of people and have a fulsome clinical trial.”

“I do think that with what you’re talking about with transportation and the things that would prevent someone who is otherwise willing to be in a clinical trial is something that should be a part of a grant or someway to match with the private sector to phrase some of the cost so that they get better representation in the trials.”

ACS CAN is strictly non-partisan and does not endorse, oppose, or contribute to any candidate or political party. For more information, visit

To access the full recording of the conversation, click here.


The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is making cancer a top priority for public officials and candidates at the federal, state and local levels. ACS CAN empowers advocates across the country to make their voices heard and influence evidence-based public policy change as well as legislative and regulatory solutions that will reduce the cancer burden. As the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN is critical to the fight for a world without cancer. For more information, visit

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