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Cancer Policy Monitor: October 12, 2021

Appropriations Update from Capitol Hill

To avoid a government shutdown on October 1, 2021, Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR) on September 30, 2021 to extend FY 2021 government funding levels through December 3, 2021. The CR provides Congress with additional time to negotiate FY 2022 spending measures.

AACR Virtual Patient Advocate Forum: The Potential of Big Data and Machine Learning

October 12, 2021 • 1 – 3:30 p.m. ET

Data science and machine learning promise to revolutionize cancer treatments. But the role of patients has yet to be clearly defined in this new world of large datasets and real-world evidence. Learn more on October 12 during a free virtual patient advocate forum, moderated by Anna Barker.

open forum

Register for the AACR Cancer Progress Report 2021 Briefing on October 13

The annual AACR Cancer Progress Report is a cornerstone of the efforts of the AACR to educate policymakers and the general public about cancer and the importance of biomedical research, as well as to advocate for increased federal funding for the NIH, NCI, FDA, and CDC. This year’s report chronicles how federally funded research continues to save and improve lives, and it shows that our ability to fully capitalize on our ever-growing knowledge of cancer is dependent on robust, sustained, and predictable federal funding.

The AACR Cancer Progress Report 2021 will be officially released during a virtual briefing on Wednesday, October 13, at 1 pm ET and all are welcome to attend. Please register.

Learn more and see the current edition of the Cancer Progress Report.

Record Number of Americans Covered by Affordable Care Act Health Plans

-Nicholas Warren, PhD and Dana Acton

Health insurance coverage is critical for accessing and affording health care in the United States. Since 2014, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has allowed Americans to purchase health insurance outside of job-related health benefits through or state-run marketplaces. As the economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic has continued, millions of Americans have turned to the ACA marketplaces for more affordable health care coverage. During the 2021 special enrollment period, an additional 2.8 million Americans signed up for coverage through the ACA, to a total of 12.2 million, the highest to date.

The ACA has been vital for patients with cancer and survivors by requiring essential benefits that prevent and detect cancers, such as annual wellness visits, mammograms, and colonoscopies at no extra cost to patients. It also prohibits denial of coverage based on pre-existing conditions or insurer-imposed limits on coverage, which prior to the ACA, would result in many cancer survivors being deemed too risky for affordable coverage and force many with insurance to pay out of pocket after meeting annual or lifetime limits. For the 16.9 million cancer survivors in the United States, these consumer protections provide a financial lifeline for affordable, accessible health coverage that could otherwise be out of reach. 

Studies have shown that access to insurance for patients with cancer is linked to better outcomes. A recent study that reviewed health insurance coverage disruptions and cancer care between 1980 and 2019 found that coverage disruptions, such as loss of employer-sponsored coverage or Medicaid eligibility, were associated with more advanced stages of cancer and lower survival rates. As policymakers at the state and federal level debate health insurance expansions, it is important that the cancer care community continue to raise awareness of the importance of access to health insurance coverage to improve public health. For more information on enrollment in the ACA marketplace, please visit

HPV Vaccination Rates Improved in the US in 2020

-Nicholas Warren, PhD

The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common virus responsible for more than 35,000 cases of cancer in the United States in men and women every year. An additional 200,000 women every year are diagnosed with HPV-related pre-cervical cancer. Fortunately, HPV infections are highly preventable with vaccination during adolescent and teenage years. In fact, one goal of the U.S. Department of Human and Health Services’ (HHS) Healthy People 2020 initiative was to ensure 80 percent of teens aged 13 to 15 years old received at least two doses of an HPV vaccine by 2020. In June 2019, the AACR and more than 80 other organizations echoed this goal in an effort to eliminate all HPV-related cancers. While progress has been made, additional effort will be needed to attain an 80 percent vaccination rate.

In September 2020, the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new report that detailed vaccination rates against common diseases. In 2020, 58.6 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds had a full course of HPV vaccines, an improvement from 54.2 percent in 2019. Disparities in vaccination rates between male and female teens continue to persist; only 56 percent of male teens were fully vaccinated against HPV in 2020 compared to 61.4 percent of female teens. While a full course of HPV vaccination include three doses, a single HPV vaccine dose has shown to provide some benefit in a retrospective clinical trial analysis. The CDC found 75.51 percent of 13– 17-year-olds had received at least one dose of an HPV vaccine by 2020, an improvement from 71.5 percent in 2019. These findings suggest there is still a lot of progress to be made in HPV vaccination rates in order to eliminate all HPV-related cancers.

Fortunately, it appears the early effects from the COVID-19 pandemic on primary care and adolescent vaccinations did not affect overall HPV vaccination rates in 2020. In May 2020, early in the pandemic, a concerning report from the CDC found significant decreases in all adolescent vaccinations due to disruptions caused by COVID-19. However, the CDC found stable or increasing vaccination rates overall in 2020 for all common childhood vaccinations it reported, including MMR, Hepatitis A, and Hepatitis B. These findings are a testament to the importance of pediatricians and other primary caregivers in promoting vaccinations and the overall well-being of America’s youth.

Hundreds of Advocates Participate in 2021 Rally for Medical Research Virtual Hill Day

The Ninth Annual Rally for Medical Research took place September 22-23 as a virtual event. The AACR, the founding organizer and a lead sponsor of the rally, joined over 350 partner organizations to advocate for robust, sustained funding increases for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Patient advocates, caregivers, researchers and health professionals gathered for a virtual reception on September 22 featuring remarks from NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, and congressional leaders including House Appropriations Committee and Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), House Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-OK), Senate Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA), and Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Ranking Member Roy Blunt (R-MO). Advocates representing many areas of medical research also provided video remarks on the importance of NIH funding for their communities.

On September 23, over 400 advocates representing almost every state took part in nearly 300 virtual meetings with their members of Congress and staff. Participants thanked Congress for enacting six straight years of robust funding increases for the NIH, while requesting that members support an increase of at least $3.5 billion in NIH funding for fiscal year (FY) 2022, as well as at least $10 billion in emergency supplemental funding for the NIH to continue research disrupted by the pandemic.

Advocates and partner organizations also participated in a National Day of Action on September 23, amplifying the Rally message via social media and email campaigns. Over 650 tweets and re-retweets were shared in conjunction with the Rally, generating 4.3 million impressions. The Rally for Medical Research initiative was launched in April 2013 to bring together the entire medical research community to ask Congress to make the NIH a national priority. Through the annual Hill Day, the Rally for Medical Research continues to raise awareness about the critical need for an increased investment in the NIH to improve health, spur progress, inspire hope, and save more lives. See the list of the Rally partner organizations.