Kennedy was a tireless champion of health care and cancer research
With the passing of Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass) on August 25, the cancer research community lost a friend and passionate advocate of its cause.
After a yearlong battle with a malignant glioma, Kennedy passed away at his home in Hyannis Port, Mass., at age 77. He was the third longest-serving member of the United States Senate in history and known as the "Lion of the Senate" for his involvement in passing nearly every major piece of legislation over his five decades of service.
Kennedy was the driving force behind improving health care and research policy in the U.S. Senate as well as a tireless champion in the fight against cancer. In 1971, he authored and fought for the passage of the landmark National Cancer Act which gave new power to the National Cancer Institute, elevated its stature within the National Institutes of Health and initiated a renewed focus on cancer research.
More recently, Kennedy took up the mantle again, engaging the cancer community in the effort to craft the 21st Century Cancer ALERT Act. The legislation, introduced in April, aims to modernize the war on cancer by accelerating the search for cures, more effective treatments and better preventive measures while addressing the ongoing needs of cancer patients. The bill was essentially put on hold when the attention of Congress turned to health care reform earlier this year.
Even after his cancer diagnosis forced him to leave Washington last year, Kennedy, the chair of the powerful Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, continued to be actively involved in the debate over health care reform. As one of the most respected members in Congress and a master at forging bipartisan compromise, his presence will be sorely missed in the increasingly contentious debate.
A special election will be held on January 19 to fill Massachusetts' vacant Senate seat. In the meantime, the state's legislature is considering allowing an interim appointment to be made by the Governor.
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Read more from the September 2009 Edition of the AACR Cancer Policy Monitor: