President Obama Signs High-mortality Cancer Bill into Law

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Just hours before the end of the 112th Congress, constitutional deadline for approval of a bill passed by that Congress, President Barack Obama signed into law the first legislation requiring comprehensive plans of research action for high-mortality cancers, with lung and pancreatic cancers given priority status for expedited attention.

Landmark Legislation

This landmark legislation, included in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013, requires the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to develop scientific frameworks for addressing cancers with survival rates of less than 50%, with first priority attention to lung and pancreatic cancers. The framework must be sent to Congress within 18 months.

 “Thank you Mr. President and thank you Congress for giving all of us in the lung cancer community and all those at risk for lung cancer the best possible present for the start of a new year,” said Lung Cancer Alliance President and CEO Laurie Fenton-Ambrose, whose national organization launched the legislative effort on lung cancer 6 years ago.

“This is a new era for lung cancer. We are now out of the shadows,” Ms. Fenton-Ambrose said.

“Our mission is to cut lung cancer mortality in half by the end of the decade,” she continued, “and we have added another tool in our arsenal to help make this goal a reality. This legislation, coupled with the validation of CT screening as a bigger potential life saver than any other cancer screening method, and with the Veterans Administration and the Department of Defense starting to screen high-risk veterans and military, could make this goal possible.”

Legislative Saga

Lung Cancer Alliance’s legislative saga started in 2006 during the 109th Congress with the passage of a Senate resolution calling lung cancer an urgent public health priority. The original sponsors were then Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton, Chuck Hagel, and Mike DeWine.

In the 110th Congress, bipartisan resolutions were passed unanimously by both Houses and in the 111th Congress bipartisan, bicameral legislation was introduced to authorize a comprehensive plan of action. The primary sponsors included Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), then Senator and now Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Senator John Kerry (D-MA), and House of Representatives members Donna Christensen (D-VI), Lois Capps (D-CA), Ed Whitfield  (R-KY), and Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ). ■