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FINDING CURES TOGETHER<sup>SM</sup>

Cancer Policy Monitor: October 4, 2016     

AACR Holds Capitol Hill Briefing to Unveil the Cancer Progress Report 2016
Hundreds of Advocates Meet with Congress During the Rally for Medical Research Hill Day
First-Time Rally Participant Shares Her Personal Perspective
AACR Attends Senate Briefing on the Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel Report
AACR Webinar on E-cigarettes Now Available
FDA-AACR Immuno-oncology Drug Development Public Workshop

AACR Holds Capitol Hill Briefing to Unveil the Cancer Progress Report 2016      

On September 21, the AACR unveiled the Cancer Progress Report 2016 at a briefing on Capitol Hill at the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR, delivered the welcome remarks and Representative Donald Payne Jr., who is featured in the Cancer Progress Report 2016, shared his father’s cancer story and discussed the importance of cancer screening and early detection. Rep. Payne’s father had died of colorectal cancer, the second deadliest form of cancer, but also one of the most curable if detected early.

Nancy E. Davidson, MD, President of the AACR, and director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute,  moderated a panel discussion that also included Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD, who is a former AACR board member, and current co-chair of the National Cancer Moonshot’s Blue Ribbon Panel (in addition to serving as chair of the National Cancer Advisory Board), and who serves as deputy director, the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins. The panel also included three survivors who were featured in this year’s report: Nancy McGuire, survivor of leiomyosarcoma; Philip Prichard, survivor of renal cell carcinoma; and Steve McKinion, the parent of a child with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Steve Herz, a survivor of multiple myeloma, and Bob Ribbans, a survivor of melanoma, both featured in the 2016 report, were also present at the briefing.

Immediately following the briefing, Dr. Davidson facilitated a Facebook Live discussion with Mr. Prichard, Mr. Ribbans, and Dr. Jaffee. Drs. Davidson and Foti then led a group to the White House to personally deliver the report to Vice President Biden’s senior staff.

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Hundreds of Advocates Meet with Congress During the Rally for Medical Research Hill Day   

On September 22, a total of 346 participants, representing 38 states plus D.C., visited 238 congressional offices (161 House, 77 Senate) as a part of the fourth Rally for Medical Research Hill Day, for which the AACR is the founding organizer. A significant percentage of the meetings were with the senators or representatives themselves. Advocates urged support for robust, sustained, and predictable funding increases for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

On the evening prior to the Rally Hill Day, a reception to celebrate medical research was held on Capitol Hill, which featured remarks from NIH Director, Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD; Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the ranking member on the House Committee on Appropriations; Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS), also a member of the Appropriations Committee; Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) and Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ), both members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has oversight over NIH.

The morning of the Rally for Medical Research Hill Day, a special 2016 Rally Video was unveiled, and the AACR hosted a Facebook Live discussion moderated by AACR President Nancy E. Davidson, MD. The live discussion featured Roy Jensen, MD, director of The University of Kansas Cancer Center and member of the AACR Science Policy and Government Affairs Committee; Shaundra Hall, cervical cancer survivor and AACR Scientist↔Survivor Program member; and Beverly Aisenbrey, AACR Foundation board of trustees member. Additionally, as a part of a National Day of Action, advocates across the United States sent their senators and representatives in Congress a letter urging support for a $2 billion increase to the NIH budget for fiscal year 2017.

On social media, the rally was also a big success, with the hashtag, #RallyMedRes reaching more than 150,000 accounts, totaling nearly 300,000 impressions. The official rally twitter account had over 19,600 impressions, a 106 percent increase over last year. Advocates and followers kept tweeting about the event for several days after the rally concluded.

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First-Time Rally Participant Shares Her Personal Perspective        

Brittany Marinelli is currently interning for the AACR and completing a laboratory internship at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. She is in her senior year at Lenoir-Rhyne University, where she is majoring in biology. She will graduate in May. We asked her to share her Rally for Medical Research experience as someone who has never done a Hill Day before, in hopes of providing those who are interested a fresh perspective on what it's like to participate. The following are her own words.

Attending my very first Capitol Hill Day event was a completely invigorating and slightly overwhelming experience. The Rally for Medical Research Hill Day brought hundreds of advocates together from almost every state in the US, including survivors, scientists, and even aspiring undergraduate cancer researchers like me. Being surrounded by these accomplished and decorated Hill Day advocates left me fairly intimidated but also excited.

While I had questioned whether or not I would be able to speak with members of Congress and their staff about increasing vital funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), I was comforted by the fact that I felt very prepared and confident because of the multiple training opportunities that had been offered prior to the Rally Hill Day, as well as knowing that each and every group included at least one very experienced individual in conducting meetings on Capitol Hill. However, in spite of knowing all this, at my first congressional meeting of the day with staffers for New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, I still felt very nervous when I realized that I actually had the opportunity to speak to people who work directly on crafting our nation's laws! Yikes!

Quite frankly, I thought I was going to pass out from the nerves, but in the end I managed to hold it together. I did so because I really believed that without adequate NIH funding, there will not be a strong future research career for a new generation of passionate aspiring scientists like me, and I wanted to be able to effectively share that message. It almost felt like I was there representing my entire generation of future medical researchers.

This first meeting ended up changing my perspective on how important my story was to making a positive impact on hill staffers and members of Congress. One of my proudest moments was when a staff member for Senator Gillibrand acknowledged and agreed that robust and sustained funding increases for NIH are important for the future of prospective researchers like myself. This positive experience led me to be more confident during the later meetings with the offices of Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY) and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY).

I must say, it felt incredible to witness just how involved and interested some members of Congress were when it came to supporting medical research. I honestly did not know what to expect when I went into each meeting, but it was fascinating to see how passionate the senators and representatives were about supporting NIH and, as a result, helping find cures for cancer and other diseases

Our nation's motto, E pluribus unum, "out of many, one" perfectly describes my experience at the Rally for Medical Research Hill Day. Out of many voices at the rally, mine was only one, but I really felt that I helped make a difference. Although this was the most successful Rally for Medical Research Hill Day to date, my aspiration for next year is that we can make an even greater impact by having constituents from every state meet with members of Congress to share their experiences, no matter how big or small of an impact they think they can make. Every voice matters in our mission to support NIH's lifesaving research.

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AACR Attends Senate Briefing on the Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel Report      

Congress has officially left town and is in recess until after the elections. With the end of fiscal year (FY) 2016 looming, both the House and Senate passed a short-term continuing resolution (CR) that prevents a government shutdown and funds the federal government at FY 2016 levels through Dec. 9.

While passage of a short-term CR was long expected given that none of the FY 2017 spending bills had been cleared for the president's signature, House and Senate leaders still managed to bring things to the brink again, arguing over supplemental funding provisions in the CR. In the end, a compromise was struck and funds were included for combatting the Zika virus, flood victims in Louisiana, and an agreement was reached to provide assistance to those affected by the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, in the lame duck session.

Under a CR, agencies like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will be flat funded for the first two months of the new fiscal year. Given the tremendous momentum we have seen again this year on NIH funding, with both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees approving significant funding increases for medical research in FY 2017, it will be incumbent on the AACR and our peer organizations in the medical research community to keep up the pressure on Congress now and after the election on Congress to make good on these proposals. Specifically, we will continue to push for an omnibus FY 2017 spending package in December that includes a $2 billion increase for NIH.  

We encourage all of you to please take a moment to communicate this to your representative and senators.

The effort to get a 21st Century Cures bill over the finish line continues, with Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) issuing a joint statement saying they are "committed to getting a result this year." Alexander and Murray highlighted the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative as one of the strategic initiatives that could be supported through a new funding stream created by the bill. On the other side of the hill, House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders from both parties also expressed their continued commitment to completing the work on this important legislative package.  

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AACR Webinar on E-Cigarettes Now Available    

In recognition of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ban on e-cigarette sales to youth, which took effect in August, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Tobacco and Cancer Subcommittee has released a new webinar, E-Cigarettes: Research, Public Health Concerns and Opportunities, and Regulations, featuring key experts that will present current research on and the public health impact of e-cigarettes.

The webinar includes presentations by the FDA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Roy S. Herbst, MD, PhD, Yale Cancer Center; Peter G. Shields, MD, Ohio State University; and Benjamin A. Toll, PhD, Medical University of South Carolina.

The public is encouraged to submit questions to the speakers after viewing the webinar to sciencepolicy@aacr.org until Oct. 10. All questions and answers will appear in November under the webinar webpage.

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FDA-AACR Immuno-oncology Drug Development Public Workshop      

On Oct. 13 and 14, 2016, the AACR will be co-sponsoring with the FDA a public workshop in Washington, D.C. on immuno-oncology drug development. The goal is to develop a path forward for evaluating an immuno-oncology-focused nonclinical and clinical development paradigm. The workshop is designed to provide an interdisciplinary forum to foster robust scientific discussion on the need and potential for:

  • New nonclinical toxicology models;
  • Modifications to traditional clinical safety monitoring;
  • New efficacy endpoints and statistical analysis methods, and modifications of traditional endpoints; and,
  • Novel trial designs in immuno-oncology clinical trials.


Space to attend in-person is limited, and we kindly ask that you register as soon as possible. Audio and slides for this workshop will be live-streamed via webcast.

Learn more about registration for either in-person or webcast and a current agenda.

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