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Cancer Policy Monitor: January 10, 2023

Appropriations Update

-Matthew Gontarchick

Congress recently enacted the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023, which provides funding for federal government agencies through September 30, 2023.

The Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 spending bill provides an increase of $2.5 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and $407.6 million for the National Cancer Institute. Notably, the spending bill also provides a funding increase for every cancer prevention and awareness program within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 also contained important provisions to improve public health and drive breakthroughs in research. Congress provided a $500 million spending increase for the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), which was officially created in last year’s spending bill to provide government support for high-risk, high-reward medical research projects intended to prevent, treat, or cure cancer and other diseases. While the spending bill does not fund ARPA-H within NIH, the bill does allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to transfer funding for ARPA-H to any office or agency within HHS, including NIH. 

In addition to the funding increase, the legislation extended Medicare’s telehealth flexibilities for an additional two years, through December 31, 2024. The legislation also included provisions to require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to increase clinical trial diversity. 

The AACR is grateful for Congress’ increased investment and support for medical research and public health in FY 2023.  We will continue to advocate for additional investments in FY 2024 to ensure the medical research community can continue to improve health, spur progress, inspire hope, and save more lives.

Congress Passes Reauthorization of Landmark Childhood Cancer Legislation

-Dana Acton

The Childhood Cancer STAR Act, originally passed in 2018, is the most comprehensive childhood cancer legislation ever enacted by Congress. With approximately one in 264 children in the United States diagnosed with cancer before their 20th birthday, the STAR Act provides first of its kind research programs geared to meet the needs of childhood cancer survivors and improve long-term health. This legislation authorizes $30 million per year to fund research, expand efforts at the NCI to collect biospecimens for childhood cancer patients, increase childhood cancer surveillance, and improve quality of life. The STAR Act’s original authorization was set to expire in 2023, jeopardizing the security of these important initiatives.

The AACR is a strong supporter of H.R. 7630/S. 4120, the Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access, and Research (STAR) Reauthorization Act, which passed with unanimous support in the House and Senate in late December, and will extend STAR Act authorities for an additional five years. The AACR thanks STAR Act champions in Congress, including Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), as well as Representatives Michael McCaul (R-TX), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Mike Kelly (R-PA), and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) for sponsoring this legislation and for their continued leadership.

New Legislation Aims to Improve Lives of Cancer Survivors

-Matthew Gontarchick

On December 14, Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) held a briefing in the U.S. Capitol to introduce the highly anticipated Comprehensive Cancer Survivorship Act (CCSA). This critical legislation aims to improve the quality of life of all cancer survivors and their loved ones by addressing the post-treatment continuum of care. 

Thanks to advancements in cancer treatment, the number of cancer survivors is projected to grow to 26 million by 2040. However, the successful completion of treatment is far from the end of survivors’ cancer journey. Rep. Wasserman Schultz, a breast cancer survivor, characterized the current post-treatment experience as the “Wild West” due to the fact that many survivors continue to struggle with chronic health conditions arising from their cancer treatments and financial hardships for years to come. Sen. Klobuchar, also a breast cancer survivor, noted that many survivors “feel like they’re on their own” due to a lack of resources on how to transition back to the job market, receive follow-up health care, and other essential services.

Key elements of the legislation include coverage to address the transition back to primary care, an alternative payment model that ensures a coordinated approach to survivorship care, patient navigation services that address the social determinants of health, workforce assistance grants, and resources on early detection and prevention. The legislation also addresses fertility preservation and long-term studies, and it contains provisions on childhood and adolescent cancer.

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is proud to support this important legislation, which is the result of years of collaboration and information gathering with key stakeholders from across the cancer community. Lisa M. Coussens, PhD, FAACR, president of the AACR, commented that this legislation will help survivors by “supporting personalized survivorship care plans for follow-up care, navigation services, and evidence-based survivorship resources.”

Read the original bill text, the section-by-section summary, and the one-page summary

New Cancer Moonshot Expedited Examination Pilot Program to Launch in February 2023

-Calais Prince, PhD

The reignited Cancer Moonshot aims to reduce cancer mortality rates by at least 50 percent within 25 years. This goal requires mobilization across the entire federal government. As part of this goal, the United States Patent and Trademark Office announced a new program to accelerate innovation in cancer research and treatment. The Cancer Moonshot Expedited Examination Pilot Program will replace the Cancer Immunotherapy Pilot Program, which provided a fast-track review of cancer immunotherapy-related patent applications without a petition fee. The new program, scheduled to begin on February 1, 2023, will have a broader scope, focusing on accelerating novel patent applications through the review process related to oncology or smoking cessation and meeting specific requirements that will detect or treat adult and pediatric cancers. This program is scheduled to run through January 31, 2025, or end on the date in which 1,000 total grantable applications are accepted. The AACR fully supports the reignited Cancer Moonshot and will continue to work toward the shared goal of ending cancer as we know it today.

AACR and FDA release episode eight of Project Livin’ Label

-Tristen Tellman, PhD

In late 2020, the AACR and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) launched Project Livin’ Label, a new educational initiative that aims to foster a broad understanding of specific oncology product labels and increase awareness of recent oncology drug FDA approvals. Every episode features a panel discussion moderated by the FDA Oncology Center of Excellence (OCE) and made up of the FDA reviewer(s), a clinical trial investigator, a patient who benefited from the therapy, and a representative from the company that developed the drug. These panel discussions are recorded and broadcast on demand for 1.5 hours of Continuing Medical Education (CME) credit for free for health care professionals that participate. Episode eight of this initiative was released last month and features the development of sotorasib, an inhibitor that targets the KRAS G12C mutant, in adult patients with locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer who have received at least one prior systemic therapy. Participants can register and complete the activity here

Cancer Community Remembers the Honorable Donald McEachin

-Matthew Gontarchick

The AACR mourns the recent passing of Representative A. Donald McEachin (D-VA) due to complications from colorectal cancer. McEachin, who was initially diagnosed after a routine colonoscopy in 2014, detailed his journey with cancer and how it inspired his work in Congress in the 2019 Cancer Progress Report.

During his time in Congress, McEachin was a top advocate for reducing the burden of colorectal cancer. He played a pivotal role in enacting a new law to remove financial barriers to receiving colonoscopies faced by Medicare beneficiaries. To inspire hope for patients with cancer, McEachin championed the importance of medical research by continually pushing for increased investment in the National Institutes of Health. McEachin additionally took pride in his work as a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee addressing the high cost of prescription drugs. 

The AACR is grateful for Congressman McEachin’s contributions to the medical research community and for his advocacy for improving cancer screening.

Patient Advocate Programs at The AACR Annual Meeting 2023

Patient advocates are important members of the research community and valuable participants at the AACR Annual Meeting 2023 which will be held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida from April 14-19, 2023. Patient advocates may register at reduced rates and travel awards are available. Learn more.