November 29, 2012

Senate Approves Whitehouse Cancer Research Bill

Measure Will Promote Coordination of Research on Cancers with the Lowest Rates of Survival

Washington, DC – The United States Senate today voted in favor of the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act of 2012, introduced by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).  The legislation, which would support the coordination of research on those forms of cancer which are difficult to detect and have persistently low survival rates, was approved by voice vote as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2012.

The Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act would direct the National Cancer Institute to work with federal and non-federal representatives to develop scientific frameworks for assessing and advancing research on cancers with five-year survival rates below 50 percent.  Advancements in the diagnosis and treatment of so-called recalcitrant cancers, such as cancer of the pancreas, lung, liver, or ovaries, have lagged behind the overall gains made in fighting the disease in recent years.  For lung cancer, the number-one cancer killer in the United States, the five-year relative survival rate is less than 16 percent, despite the survival rates for all cancers improving from 50 to 67 percent over the past 40 years.  For pancreatic cancer, the survival rate remains at 6 percent. 

“The strong, bipartisan vote for this provision is a reflection of the devastating impact these diseases have on families across the country,” said Whitehouse.  “I hope it might also signal a brighter future for recalcitrant cancer patients and their families.  I am grateful for the support of my colleagues.”

The measure agreed to today builds on similar legislation introduced by Senator Whitehouse in the 111th and 112th Congresses to develop and sustain a coordinated national strategy to address pancreatic cancer.  The broader Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act, which includes key improvements recommended by medical experts and patient advocacy groups, was approved by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions in September.  A companion measure was passed by the House of Representatives that same month.  Final action on the NDAA could happen as soon as tonight.


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Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921