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The Politics of Health Care

Why Cures for Childhood Cancers Must Take Flight

Published February 8, 2016 9:16 AM by Silas Gossman

[Editor’s Note: this blog was originally written by Kristin Connor]

Since President Obama announced last month that he wants to "make America the country that cures cancer once and for all," the White House has convened the first meeting of the National Cancer Moonshot Task Force which is chaired by Vice President Biden. The proposed funding includes $195 million this year and $755 million in the 2017 budget for the National Institute of Health (“NIH”) and the FDA. According to the fact sheet, the $1 billion budget will be directed to genetic analysis of cancers, the development of treatments such as vaccines and immunotherapies, which harnesses the immune system to attack tumors, and better data sharing among researchers.1 In addition to government and academia, the Task Force is calling for a collaboration of philanthropies, patient-advocate organizations, and biotech and pharmaceutical companies. For the childhood cancer community, the new focus on pediatric cancer which will include analyzing rare cancer tumors and studying how cancer progresses in order to develop better treatments, can’t happen fast enough.  Here’s why. 

Each year, nearly 16,000 children2 are diagnosed with cancer, with 40,000 children3 already suffering through ravaging treatments (not to mention the hundreds of thousands of survivors who spend a lifetime struggling with the side effects of toxic, life-saving drugs). Cancer is the second leading cause of death in children and the leading cause of death due to disease.4 Even though childhood cancer represents a real crisis for children, families and communities in the United States, cancers affecting children have never ranked high enough to get more than 4% of the federal cancer research budget. Why is research funding so low? Because allocation of cancer research funds are driven by the number of people who have the disease, and so adults, with decades of exposures and behaviors, get the funds since they experience cancer in much greater numbers than children. With the anticipated keen focus on pediatric cancers by the National Cancer Moonshot Task Force, will anything change? It must if we are going to improve outcomes and protect the lifetimes of children with cancer.

Because while incidences of childhood cancer rise, the 4% research funding allocation has remained flat.5 And this lack of funding has had tragic consequences, yielding 35 years of an unacceptable lack of progress in drug development for childhood cancers. Since 1980, only three drugs have been developed specifically for use in children with cancer.6 Equally disturbing, for many types of childhood cancers, the same treatments which existed in the 1970’s continue to be used without change today. Three and a half decades have come and gone and pediatric cancer treatments have remained stagnant. This is shocking and unacceptable, especially considering the last 40 years have seen a 24% increase in incidences of childhood cancers.2

With current treatments, more than 95% of childhood cancer survivors will have significant health related issues by the time they reach the age of 45 years—nearly all of them.7 We must increase funding for research that will lead to treatments which will not compromise a child’s quality of life for her lifetime. Targeted therapies, those which target the cancer cells and leave surrounding cells and organs unharmed, and immunotherapies, using the body’s own immune system to fight cancer, are extremely promising and with proper investment, offer hope of a cure without the same negative health effects today’s survivor’s face.

It is imperative we shift the mindset from only considering the number of annual cancer diagnoses to considering the number of life years potentially saved.  For a child with cancer, on average, 71 potential life years can be saved.2 The potential to save entire lifetimes should be a driving factor in funding allocation decisions but, to date, has not been considered.

We hope childhood cancer will be highly prioritized in the $1 billion dollar budget because no segment of our population is more important than our children.   

Kristin Connor is Executive Director of CURE Childhood Cancer, an Atlanta-based non-profit dedicated to conquering childhood cancer through funding targeted research and through support of patients and their families. She can be reached at Kristin@CUREChildhoodCancer.org.

References:

1.            www.WhiteHouse.gov

2.            American Cancer Society, Childhood and Adolescent Cancer Statistics, 2014  www.cancer.org

3.            IcareICure.org Get Informed Childhood Cancer Facts

4.            National Vital Statistics Report, vol. 62.6, December 20, 2013

5.            National Cancer Institute

6.            The Truth365.org

7.            St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, (JAMA 2013:309 {22}:2371-2381)

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posted by Silas Gossman

1 comments

Dear Rick,I cannot describe what I feel! This is absolutely astounding and great! Thank you: thank you so much. I don’t know what to say: It’s 2016 and i’m still cancer free after some years I think I’ll have to let this fantastic news “sink in” in my brain a little: I’ll keep on thanking you again and again.It’s like Magic i am CANCER FREE I have never been more amazed and happy in my life! Contact him directly at his email:phoenixtearsmedicals@outlook.com for your own oil.

May GOD Bless you all! Yours truly,

jennifer joe

jennifer joe, needle - lope, hand June 8, 2016 9:06 AM
usa FL

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