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Health and Science Policy at the AACR Annual Meeting
The Science Policy track at the AACR Annual
Meeting is your opportunity to learn more about health and science policy issues affecting cancer research, patients, survivors, and families. These
informative sessions are designed to highlight recent developments in science policy as it affects cancer
research and provide an open forum for the discussion of healthcare policies that impact cancer patients and families.
One Science Policy session, "The Potential Impact on Cancer Patients of a Repeal or Revision of the Affordable Care Act," takes place Tuesday, April 4 at 10:30 a.m. (Room 201, Convention Center). The session will discuss some of the specific provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that are benefiting cancer patients, such as ensuring that individuals are covered for pre-existing conditions; access is provided to preventive services; annual and lifetime coverage caps are prohibited; and access to clinical trials is encouraged.
The Trump administration and Republican lawmakers have said that dismantling the ACA is a top priority in 2017. The ACA, which was signed into law in 2010 and implemented over the subsequent four years, has provided major benefits for cancer patients. These include prohibiting denial of insurance coverage for those who have cancers (the “pre-existing conditions” stipulation); coverage of preventive services for colorectal, breast, cervical and lung cancer screenings and skin cancer counseling; removal of annual and lifetime dollar coverage caps; the mandate for insurance to cover participation in clinical trials.
The second Science Policy session, "E-cigarettes: Are they a Public Health Threat or a Useful Cessation Tool?," takes place Tuesday, April 4 at 1 p.m. (Room 201, Convention Center). This session will provide an opportunity to consider the different viewpoints on e-cigarettes, specifically whether they might act as a gateway to smoking for nonsmokers or be a useful public health tool to aid in smoking cessation. Additionally, there will be research updates on e-cigarettes related to their initiation, toxicity, and dependence, as well as possible use in tobacco treatment programs and second hand vaping associated risks. The session will also cover research on nicotine and nicotinic receptors and flavor related e-cigarette use and updates on new generation products (e.g., heat not burn tobacco devices).
his latest report, the Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, highlighted
that e-cigarette use among U.S. youth and young adults has become a
major public health concern due to a drastic increase in usage or
“vaping” among high school students from 2011 to 2015. These products
are now the most commonly used form of tobacco among youth in the United
States. Since most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, the use of these
products may lead to addiction and harm the developing adolescent brain.
Furthermore, when NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins was describing a
recent study in his blog, he mentioned that e-cigarettes seem to be
making the tobacco problem worse, not better. Contrast these viewpoints
with that of Public Health England (PHE), a group made up of health
specialists from more than 70 organizations in the U.K., which released
an independent review of the evidence that evaluated e-cigarettes and
health. The report from the summer of 2015 concluded that e-cigarettes
were around 95 percent less harmful than combustible cigarettes and that there
is, as yet, no evidence to suggest they are gateway products to smoking.
In 2016, the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) adopted the
“deeming” regulation that gives FDA regulatory authority over several
tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, cigars, and pipe tobacco, as
amended by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.
However, there are still many unanswered questions about e-cigarettes.
A special session, "Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot: Progress and Promise," takes place Monday, April 3 at 1 p.m. (Plenary Hall D/E, Convention Center). This session provides an opportunity for leaders from government, academia, industry, patient advocacy organizations, and Capitol Hill, to discuss how the "Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot" provision that was included in the 21st Century Cures Act is stimulating the acceleration of progress against cancer and how it will result in better outcomes for patients. In addition, panelists will discuss why it is vitally important for the Trump administration and
the 115th Congress to continue the momentum and vital support for this
transformative initiative that began on Vice President Biden’s watch.
During his State of the Union address in January 2016, President Obama announced his intention to launch the Cancer Moonshot Initiative and named Vice President Joe Biden as “Head of Mission Control.” Throughout 2016, Vice President Biden’s work on the Cancer Moonshot has been nothing short of spectacular, as he consistently delivered an extraordinary amount of personal commitment and dedication. Of course, he knows firsthand the devastating effects of cancer on a family because of the untimely loss of his beloved son, Beau.
During the past year, the vice president challenged all of us to “imagine what you could do in 10 years, and then do it in five” and in so doing lessen the burden of cancer for patients, their families, and generations to come. We all owe Vice President Biden and his staff a tremendous amount of gratitude for establishing an environment throughout 2016 that encouraged the cancer research community to provide thought leadership, including the opportunity to provide their recommendations for new approaches to spur major advances against the more than 200 diseases we call cancer.
Finally, the AACR will hold a special congressional briefing at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center (Room 268) Tuesday, April 4 at noon. The briefing aims to bring the science and expertise from the AACR Annual Meeting to Capitol Hill by sharing the latest cancer research and developments with congressional staff. Leading this event will be Science Policy and Government Affairs Committee Chair Dr. George Demetri, and joining him on the panel will be Dr. Anna Barker, former deputy director of the National Cancer Institute, and patient advocate Jack Whelan. AACR Scientist Survivor ↔Survivor Program (SSP) participants will also attend the event as part of their program at this year’s meeting.
Learn more information about the Science Policy track.
Learn more information about AACR Annual Meeting 2017 registration.
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Early-career Scientists Spend a Day on Capitol Hill
On Feb. 28 - March 1, 15 early-career scientists and a
senior scientist mentor visited Washington D.C. to participate in face-to-face
meetings with senators, representatives and their key staff members during the
second annual AACR Early-career Hill Day. In conjunction, advocates from around
the U.S. participated in the Early-career National Day of Action and urged
Congress to provide robust, sustained and predictable funding increases for the
National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Cancer Institute (NCI).
While 95 percent of the NIH budget goes directly to research
awards, programs and centers, including training programs, the average age at
which researchers receive their first R01 independent research grant today is
42 and the chance of successfully receiving a research grant from NCI is less
than 15 percent. In fact, in 2010, only 3 percent of independent R01-supported
investigators were under the age of 36, compared to 18 percent in 1983.
“The AACR is very concerned about the future of the cancer
research pipeline, and is most specifically focused on helping the early-career
cancer scientist through numerous programs and initiatives, such as AACR NextGen Grants for Transformative Cancer Research, a funding initiative to
stimulate highly innovative research from young investigators,” said Margaret
Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “The AACR Early-Career
Hill Day provided an opportunity for associate members to explain to policy
makers how early-career scientists have been have been adversely affected by
the funding environment over the past decade. We think their messages are
powerful and underscore the importance of robust, sustained, and predictable
budget increases for the NIH and NCI.”
The participants had 39 meetings with 21 House and 18 Senate
offices from 15 different states, an increase from the previous year. Meetings
included those with congressional leadership offices, such as House Speaker Paul Ryan’s
office, as well as members of House and Senate appropriations committees.
The early-career scientists discussed the positive impact
that NIH and NCI funding has not only on their careers and on cancer research,
but also on the U.S. economy. In 2015 alone, NIH funding directly and
indirectly supported 352349 jobs nationwide, according to United for Medical
Research. That same year, NIH funding and jobs generated by that funding
produced $60.171 billion in new economic activities, with seventeen states
seeing an economic gain of $1 billion or more.
Early-career investigators bring fresh ideas and
technologies to existing biomedical research problems, and pioneering new areas
of research. That is why entry of early-career investigators into the ranks of
independent, NIH-funded researchers is essential to the health of this
country’s biomedical research enterprise.
You can support early-career and all cancer researchers by
contacting your members of Congress today to urge their support for increasing NIH
and NCI funding. Visit our Take Action Page to send an email or make a phone
call to your senators and representative. Graduate students, medical students and residents, and clinical and postdoctoral fellows who are enrolled in educational or training programs that could lead to careers in cancer research are also invited to join the AACR as Associate Members.
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CMS Administrator Nominee Seema Verma Advances in the Senate
On March 2, the Senate Finance Committee approved the
nomination of Seema Verma to be administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), part of the Department of Health and Human Services, in
a party-line 13-12 vote. Verma is the president and founder of Indiana-based SVC Inc., a national health policy consulting company. She’s credited as the architect
the Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP), the first consumer directed Medicaid program in
the U.S. that was developed under Governor Mitch Daniels, as well as of
then-Governor Mike Pence's Medicaid expansion in Indiana.
While a major responsibility of CMS is to administers the
Medicare program, along with Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance
Program (in partnership with state governments), CMS also has authority to
regulate lab developed tests (LDTs) through the Clinical Laboratory ImprovementAmendments (CLIA) program.
There is little insight on Verma’s views on LDTs or CLIA. In
her February hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, there were no
mentions of or questions related to the subject of clinical laboratories or
tests. Any effect of CMS policy on LDTs would likely be related to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal and its impact on reimbursement and coverage for certain clinical
The ACA, through its preventive health services requirements, mandated that non-grandfathered private health insurance plans
cover at no cost certain recommended laboratory services. Currently, all
republican ACA replacement plans include a repeal of that requirement. ACA
replacement plans aim to shift cost-sharing to consumers, which may decrease
the demand for LDTs from patients no longer able to afford them.
As far as any expected regulation of LDTs, that remains
unlikely in the current political environment. Last year, the FDA delayed finalizing its draft guidance on regulating LDTs. Furthermore, the
Trump administration’s stance on issuing new rules makes it highly unlikely
that it will issue new rules to regulate LDTs.
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Register Today: Rally for Medical Research Hill Day
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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