Researchers at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and caregivers have helped secure medical coverage and financial compensation for individuals who were exposed to Ground Zero and consequently developed uterine cancer, including endometrial cancer—according to a new, final rule added to the List of World Trade Center (WTC)–Related Health Conditions.
“This is really exciting because we have spent more than 2 years working to get this approved, and it will make a huge difference for the [patients] who have developed this condition, the [individuals] who go on to develop this condition, and all of their families,” emphasized Iris Udasin, MD, Professor of Internal Medicine and Medical Director of the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute Clinical Center, as well as the principal investigator for the WTC Health Program at the Rutgers University School of Public Health.
About the WTC Health Program
The WTC Health Program is a limited federal health program administered by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and is authorized through 2090. The Program provides no-cost medical monitoring and treatment for certified WTC-related health conditions to those directly affected by the 9/11 attacks in New York, the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
The Program also funds medical research into physical and mental health conditions related to 9/11 exposures.
Individuals who worked as responders at Ground Zero as well as those who lived or worked nearby are expected to receive full coverage from the WTC Health Program for their cancer treatment, as uterine cancer joins most other cancers on the WTC Health Program’s list.
Covered patients must use caregivers who are part of the WTC Health Program’s network, but this requirement does not necessarily mean patients will need to switch providers. Dr. Udasin noted that most of New Jersey’s large cancer care providers are already part of the network. Those providers who are not can request to be added to the network.
Receiving Approval for WTC Health Program Coverage
The effort to include uterine cancer among covered conditions began when Dr. Udasin noticed several cases among first responders she was treating.
She discussed the matter with her colleague Judith Graber, PhD, MS, Associate Professor of Biostatics and Epidemiology at the Rutgers University School of Public Health. Agreeing that the cancers were most likely caused by Ground Zero exposure, they requested that the federal government provide coverage for patients with uterine cancer.
“I had already authored several studies that had shown an excess of all cancers in responders, and we knew that a lot of the chemicals people had been exposed to were endocrine disruptors that can lead to this type of cancer, so it made sense to request this addition,” emphasized Dr. Udasin.
The September 11, 2021 request from Dr. Udasin and Dr. Graber won support from practitioners who were treating patients at the New York University School of Medicine, Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine, and Northwell Health. It also received backing from more than a dozen members of Congress, who signed a letter from Representative Mikie Sherrill—a Democrat from New Jersey—to the WTC Health Program.
“[Dr. Udasin and Dr. Graber] organized the request to add uterine cancer to the list of [the WTC Health Program’s] covered conditions, along with others at the World Trade Center Health Program Clinics: Laura Crowley, MD; Denise Harrison, MD; Jacqueline Moline, MD; and Joan Reibman, MD,” explained Benjamin Chevat, Executive Director of 9/11 Health Watch. “Their work will ensure that responders and survivors of September 11 who were impacted by the toxins at Ground Zero are fully included [in] getting the care they need and deserve,” he stressed.
Dr. Udasin remarked that the individuals who really deserve congratulations are the affected patients—and that John Howard, MD, Program Administrator of the WTC Health Program, deserves gratitude.
“The people at the WTC Health Program kept working through the review process despite all the challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and I think they have reached the right decision,” Dr. Udasin concluded. “The number of affected patients is not huge, but this will make a huge impact on their lives and once again demonstrate the nation’s commitment to helping September 11 responders and survivors.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals who were exposed to Ground Zero after the September 11 attacks can apply to secure coverage through the WTC Health Program at cdc.gov. They also will be able to seek compensation from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund by visiting vcf.gov.The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.