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​​Cancer Policy Monitor: April 11, 2017     

Join Thousands in Support of NIH Funding     

During the AACR Annual Meeting 2017, thousands of attendees raised their voices in support of cancer research, urging Congress to reject the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to NIH and instead increase NIH funding by $2 billion this year. On April 28, the current spending bill that funds the federal government, including agencies like the NIH, will expire. To keep government operating, Congress will need to pass another spending bill by that deadline, making this a critical time to contact members of Congress regarding spending priorities like medical research.

To make contacting members of Congress easier during this urgent time, we've drafted a customizable email, call script, and tweet that you can use to contact your senators and representative. We've also revamped our Take Action website, which now includes cancer-related news and legislation, along with various ways to connect with Congress members.

Take a moment today and to take action in support of cancer research and robust NIH funding. It only takes a few minutes!

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Joe Biden Delivers Remarks at AACR Annual Meeting 2017      

On Monday, April 3, former Vice President Joe Biden delivered remarks at the AACR Annual Meeting 2017 focusing on the progress made as part of the Cancer Moonshot and his plans to keep up the fight as part of his Biden Cancer Initiative. The following summary of his remarks was originally published in the AACR Cancer Research Catalyst blog.

Former Vice President Joe Biden returned to the stage at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting on Monday, sounding a battle cry to continue the momentum for cancer research that began when he launched the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative in 2016.

Biden offered a frank assessment of the political changes that have occurred since his first AACR appearance, when he addressed the audience at the Annual Meeting 2016 in New Orleans.

He denounced President Trump’s proposed budget cuts that would strip $5.8 billion from the National Institutes of Health in 2018, expressing his concern that it would discourage young scientists from pursuing the types of projects that have led to significant progress against cancer.

“He’s proposing Draconian cuts, not only to biomedical research, but also to the entire scientific expertise across the board,” Biden said.

But the president Biden most frequently evoked was John F. Kennedy, equating Kennedy’s quest to explore space with the moonshot’s mission to achieve a decade’s worth of progress against cancer in just five years.

Biden quoted Kennedy: “We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained.” He told the audience that he will continue to advocate for robust funding for biomedical research, and for bipartisan cooperation, which he said was responsible for the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act, which secured $1.8 billion for cancer research when it passed in December 2016.

“I told you last year that I will get you an additional billion dollars for moonshot scientific priorities,” Biden said. “I was wrong — I got you $1.8 billion.”

“We can do more together than we can by working alone,” Biden said. “We can fundamentally change the prospects and promise of life for tens of millions of people around the world.

Biden told the audience, “You’re an incredible national resource. So let’s keep it going, folks. This is no time to stop the momentum.”

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Michael A. Caligiuri, MD, Inaugurated as AACR President 2017-18     

Michael A. Caligiuri, MD, director of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center and CEO of the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute in Columbus, was inaugurated as AACR president for 2017-2018 during the Annual Business Meeting held during the AACR Annual Meeting 2017.

Caligiuri holds the John L. Marakas Nationwide Insurance Enterprise Foundation chair in cancer research and is a professor in The Ohio State University College of Medicine Departments of Molecular Virology, Immunology and Medical Genetics and Internal Medicine. He is also John L. Marakas Nationwide Insurance Enterprise Foundation chair in cancer research and a professor in The Ohio State University College of Medicine Departments of Molecular Virology, Immunology and Medical Genetics, and Internal Medicine. He is a renowned physician-scientist known for his work in immunology that is focused on human natural killer cells and their modulation for the treatment of leukemia, myeloma, and glioblastoma. Well over 1,500 cancer patients have been treated on clinical protocols that have emanated from the Caligiuri laboratory.

“For nearly a century, AACR has been an unwavering catalyst for advancing cancer research by fostering collaboration among scientists and physicians, accelerating the dissemination of cancer discoveries and supporting the education and training of young cancer researchers. I am humbled and tremendously honored to be elected by my peers to serve as AACR president,” Caligiuri said. “Game-changing cancer research breakthroughs can’t come fast enough — and as an oncology community we must continue to be an unwavering force for progress in research that benefits the many people affected by cancer.”

“We are delighted that Dr. Caligiuri has been elected to serve as the 2016-2017 AACR president-elect and our 2017-2018 president,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “He is a distinguished physician-scientist and highly esteemed leader, and his dedication to accelerating the pace of discovery and its translation to the clinic will be invaluable as he leads the association toward its goal of preventing and curing all cancers.”

Additionally, Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD, deputy director of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, and associate director of the Bloomberg~Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, was inducted as president-elect. Nancy E. Davidson, MD, FAACR, executive director of oncology for Fred Hutch/University of Washington Cancer Consortium and president of Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, now serves as past president.

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Senator Roy Blunt Receives AACR 2017 Distinguished Public Service Award    

U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, chair of the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, received the AACR 2017 Distinguished Public Service Award during the AACR Annual Meeting Opening Ceremony for his consistent support of NIH and his work to significantly increase funding for biomedical research.

“When everyone in your family is healthy, you have lots of problems; when someone is sick, you only have one problem,” Senator Blunt said in a statement. “I’ve been proud to lead efforts as chairman of the Labor/HHS appropriations subcommittee to increase resources for lifesaving biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute. Responsibly prioritizing resources for NIH and NIC will pave the way for new treatments and cures, reduce health care costs over the long term, and help maintain America’s competitive edge in innovation.”

As chairman of the Labor/HHS appropriations subcommittee, Senator Blunt secured a $2 billion increase for NIH, including a five percent increase for NCI, in the FY2016 omnibus appropriations bill, the first significant increase for NIH in over a decade. Currently, Senator Blunt supports an additional $2 billion increase to NIH in the FY2017 Labor/HHS appropriations bill, which passed out of the Appropriations Committee in June 2016 but did not go to the full Senate for a vote before the end of the 114th Congress.

“Maintaining a robust, sustained federal commitment to medical research will give hope to more families battling cancer and other diseases, Senator Blunt added in his statement. It’s an incredible honor to receive this award, and I’ll continue working to establish a pattern of responsibly investing in groundbreaking medical research, especially in areas such as cancer research.”

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Highlights of Regulatory Science and Policy Sessions at AACR Annual Meeting    

The AACR Annual Meeting 2017 Regulatory Science and Policy Track (RSP) featured seven sessions and two mini-symposia. In one of the most popular RSP sessions, Dr. Richard Pazdur, newly-appointed director of the FDA Oncology Center for Excellence, moderated Tables Turned: A Conversation with the Press About the Future of Cancer Research and Treatment.” The session included as panelists Adam Feuerstein from The Street, Matthew Herper from FORBES, Laurie McGinley from The Washington Post, and Meg Tirrell from CNBC.

In the session, panelists discussed a wide range of topics, including how news media covers issues related to cancer research and drug development. Herper, in discussing challenges of bringing innovative cancer drugs to market, stated that "for targeted and immunotherapies, more patients need to be in a clinical trial and it needs to be cheaper," and later added that "it would help drug development if everyone knew why drugs were rejected, not just why they were accepted." On the FDA Oncology Center of Excellence, Tirrell was supportive of Dr. Pazdur's efforts, stating that "people are seeing a regulatory pathway that actually works."

Other popular RSP sessions included "Regulatory Considerations for Utilizing Liquid Biopsies in Drug and Diagnostic Development," which had built upon a July 2016 FDA-AACR co-sponsored workshop on liquid biopsies, and "Immuno-oncology Combination Therapies," which followed on the success of two previous dose-finding workshops in May 2015 and June 2016 but shifted the focus to dose-finding considerations for immuno-oncology combination therapies.

If you attended the AACR Annual Meeting 2017 or purchased access to the meeting's webcasts, stay tuned to our RSP Track page, where we will post links to webcasts of these sessions once they become available on April 21.

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Highlights of Science Policy Sessions at AACR Annual Meeting    

The AACR Annual Meeting 2017 Science Policy Track featured two sessions. One session focused on the potential impact on cancer patients of a repeal or revision of the Affordable Care Act, while panelists in the second discussed whether e-cigarettes are a public health threat or a useful smoking cessation tool.

The first Science Policy session, “The Potential Impact on Cancer Patients of a Repeal or Revision to the Affordable Care Act” was chaired by Dr. Gilbert S. Omenn, Harold T. Shapiro distinguished university professor at the University of Michigan Medical School, and chair of the AACR Health Policy Subcommittee. He was joined by Dr. Ernest T. Hawk, vice president, Division of OVP, Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences at MD Anderson Cancer Center, as well as two cancer survivors, Diana Chingos of Los Angeles, California, and Chiara D`Agositno of Montclair, New Jersey.

Dr. Omenn opened the session with an overview of the provisions within the ACA that benefit cancer patients. These include the prohibition of denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, the prohibition of annual and lifetime coverage caps, the 10 Essential Health Benefits that insurance policies are required to cover, the coverage of dependents up to age 26, and Medicaid expansion. While the AACR does not have an official position on the ACA, the session aimed to highlight provisions that benefit cancer patients, which should remain a part of any future healthcare legislation. For a full recap of the session, check out this AACR blog post.

The second Science Policy Session, “E-cigarettes: Are They a Public Health Threat or a Useful Cessation Tool?”, was a follow on to the AACR webinar "E-cigarettes: Research, Public Health Concerns and Opportunities, and Regulations." It was chaired by Dr. Benjamin A. Toll, chief of tobacco cessation and health behaviors, Department of Public Health Sciences at the Medical Univeresity of South Carolina and included Dr. Roy S. Herbst, chair of the AACR Tobacco and Cancer Subcommittee, along with other panelists.

During the session, Dr. Brian A. King, deputy director for research translation at the CDC Office on Smoking and Health, provided overview of the surgeon general’s report, “E-cigarette Use among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General." Dr. Rachel Grana, program director in the Tobacco Control and Research Branch at the Behavioral Research Program of the NCI Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, presented the current research on e-cigarettes and outlined research in that area that she believes still needs to be done. Dr. Lion Shahab, senior lecturer in health psychology at the University College London, presented the United Kingdom’s views on e-cigarettes as recently outlined in a report by Public Health England and stated that in the U.K., e-cigarettes have been recommended as smoking cessation tools.

If you attended the AACR Annual Meeting 17 or purchased access to the meeting's webcasts, stay tuned to the Science Policy Track page, where we will post links to webcasts of these sessions once they become available on April 21.

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AACR Holds Congressional Briefing on “The Road to Cancer Survivorship”    

On April 4, the AACR held a congressional briefing on Capitol Hill titled, “The Road to Cancer Survivorship: Discover, Predict, Prevent, and Treat.” In this guest post, one of the panelists, AACR Associate Member Andreana N. Holowatyj, PhD, shares her perspective on and highlights from the briefing.

Among the excitement of the AACR hosting nearly 21,000 cancer researchers, physician-scientists, and patient advocates at its Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. last week, the AACR also brought dialogue to Capitol Hill. In a briefing led by Dr. George Demetri, chair of the AACR Science Policy and Government Affairs Committee, a discussion around critical priorities and challenges today in cancer research included Dr. Ann Barker, former deputy director of the National Cancer Institute; Dr. Chanita Hughes-Halbert, AT&T distinguished endowed chair in cancer equity at the Hollings Cancer Center, Medical University of South Carolina; patient advocate Jack Whelan; and myself.

Opening remarks were made by Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO), one of the champions of the 21st Century CURES Act, who propelled the conversation about cancer prevention and cures. Our discussion became centered around the promise and progress of cancer research, which has been due in large part to federal funding through NIH and NCI. This forum also highlighted unique perspectives from a cancer survivor, and myself, an early-career investigator.

My research has focused on better understanding the molecular factors underlying cancer disparities and prevention. This was supported through federal funding, including programs such as the NCI Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program. SEER collects cancer incidence and mortality data from population-based cancer registries covering approximately 28 percent of the United States population. Through this research, we found that survival after a diagnosis of colorectal cancer before the age of 50 years is significantly worse among non-Hispanic black patients compared with non-Hispanic whites, even among patients diagnosed with early-stage disease. Our findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, highlighted the need to investigate differences in tumor biology and/or treatment that are associated with racial disparities, which could have implications for the treatment and prevention of colorectal cancer.

Given that the incidence of colorectal cancer incidence among young patients is rising, my work, even as an early-career researcher, is not only timely but also critical. Beyond that, this work also helps to build the foundation for my future research interests and career as an independent investigator. Yet unfortunately, without sustained, robust, and predictable funding increases for the NIH in fiscal years 2017, 2018, and beyond, not only will promising cancer treatments be delayed, but also the career prospects and future promise of early-career researchers like myself will dissipate.

As we begin unraveling the complexities of cancer, it's important to remember that this remarkable progress and the cutting-edge discoveries taking place in laboratories and clinics across the United States do not happen in a vacuum. Our progress and the future of good science and novel therapeutics for our patients are highly dependent on robust federal funding for cancer research, both basic and translational. Given these stakes, we must encourage bipartisan efforts in Congress to fully secure the $1.8 billion in funding for the Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot; to obtain a $2 billion increase for the NIH in fiscal years 2017, 2018, and beyond; and to highlight the role that biomedical research funding plays not only in saving lives but also in propelling economic growth across the United States.

Robust funding for good science leads to good medicine and contributes to our goal of finding cures for cancer and benefitting patients around the world. We cannot afford to turn back now.

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AACR Associate Member Discusses Experience During Early-Career Hill Day    

Marvin Langston, PhD, MPH, postdoctoral research scholar at the Washington University School of Medicine, was one of 15 AACR Associate Members participating in the AACR Early Career Hill Day. In this guest post, he reflects on his experience as a young researcher advocating on Capitol Hill for increased NIH funding.

About two weeks after I joined 14 other early career cancer researchers from across the country for the AACR’s Early-career Hill Day to advocate for cancer research funding, the Trump administration released a budget blueprint detailing its funding priorities. The budget blueprint revealed potentially deep cuts to funding for cancer research and other public health initiatives. The announcement of the budget blueprint underscored for me the importance of the advocacy work my colleagues and I engaged in on March 1, 2017.

We are concerned that early career investigators like us may be particularly impacted by any NIH budget stagnation or cuts. In 2010, only 3 percent of RO1-supported investigators were under the age of 36 according to the NIH. In 1983, that number was 18 percent. This contracting trend is concerning because it proves significantly more challenging for early-career researchers to establish an independent research career. Some early-career scientists and clinicians are choosing to pursue other, non-research career alternatives due to diminishing federal support. Losing young talent in research significantly impacts our ability as a nation to stay on the forefront of biomedical research.

Arriving to Capitol Hill for AACR’s Early-career Hill Day was a truly surreal experience. Corridors within the Congressional office buildings were crowded and abuzz after President Trump’s joint address to Congress the night before our visit. We split up into small groups to expand our coverage through the Hill and maximize the spread of our message. Each group was joined by an AACR staffer who smoothly guided us through the sometimes complex labyrinth of offices. 

In our meetings we thanked members of Congress for passing the 21st Century Cures Act in December 2016, which included $1.8 billion over seven years for the Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot initiative. Congress provided $300 million of this in FY 2017 as part of December’s continuing resolution. While the cancer research community is excited for all the innovative work this initiative will support, we urged Congress to ensure that this funding supplements, not supplants, regular NIH funding. We also requested that Congress provide robust, sustained, and predictable funding increases for NIH in FY 2017 and beyond. Specifically, we asked them to finish the work begun last year and provide a $2 billion increase for NIH in a final FY 2017 appropriations bill this spring.

My group was fortunate to meet members/health legislative staffers from six Congressional offices during our whirlwind day. We met in the offices of Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and U.S. Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-MD-8), Andy Harris (R-MD-1), and Lacy Clay (D-MO-1). The day started with a constituent coffee in the office of my home-state Senator, Roy Blunt, who is the Committee Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. Senator Blunt’s committee has the role of appropriating funds for NIH and his support was vital in passing the 21st Century Cures Act. 

During our meetings, the members/staffers were extremely receptive to our messages. This confirmed for me the bipartisan support for NIH on the Hill. We also shared our research interests, personal motivating factors for engaging in cancer research, and our opinions on what member of Congress could do to support early career investigators. This experience has greatly increased my knowledge and capacity for legislative outreach and encourages me to continue my involvement in future cancer research advocacy activities. 

I am beginning to understand that researchers must continue to produce cutting-edge science while also increasing our engagement with policymakers. Sharing the importance of our work with stakeholders outside of the scientific community is a vital aspect of the cancer research process and will boost the support for this work in the future.

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Save the Date: Upcoming AACR-FDA Regulatory Science and Policy Workshops    

Two upcoming joint AACR-FDA Regulatory Science and Policy workshops are currently planned.

  • Immuno-oncology Combination Therapies (July 20, 2017)
    • AACR Chair: Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD
    • FDA Chair: Geoffrey Kim, MD
  • Liquid Biopsies: Breast Cancer Focus (October 10, 2017)
    • AACR Chairs: Carlos L. Arteaga, MD, and Pasi A. Jänne, MD, PhD
    • FDA Chairs: Julia Beaver, MD, Gideon Blumenthal, MD, and Reena Philip, PhD

Sign up here to receive updates about these and other upcoming Regulatory and Science Policy Workshops, including information about workshop registration.

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Register Now: AACR/AACI/ASCO May Hill Day and Rally for Medical Research    

AACR/AACI/ASCO May Hill Day

On Thursday, May 4, 2017, AACR, Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI), and American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) will once again partner to bring researchers, oncologists, cancer survivors and other advocates to Capitol Hill to build congressional support for federal research by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Participants will urge members of Congress to provide robust, predictable and sustained investments for NIH and NCI. Attendees will thank members of Congress for passing the 21st Century Cures Act in December 2016, which provided supplemental funding over seven years for the Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot Initiative, and for ensuring the initial $300 million in FY 2017 for the Moonshot was included in the continuing resolution (CR), passed in December.

With a new administration and Congress, including new members on key House and Senate committees, the May Hill Day is an important and opportune time to underscore the value of a bipartisan commitment to cancer research in saving and improving millions of lives touched by cancer.

You can register today at this link. A room block has also been reserved at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill. You can reserve your room today.

Rally for Medical Research

The fifth annual Rally for Medical Research Hill Day will be held Sept. 14, 2017, in Washington, D.C., with a reception on the evening prior. Registration is now open and all interested advocates of biomedical research are invited to register. For those unable to travel to D.C., there will also be a National Day of Action, where advocates will be able to contact their Senators and Representative from anywhere in the United States to urge support for the National Institutes of Health.

Stay up-to-date on by visiting the Rally website, Facebook, and Twitter pages.


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