Legislation Will Help Kids With Cancer Live Longer, Healthier Lives

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is commending Congress for working in a bipartisan fashion to pass the Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access & Research (STAR) Act of 2018. The STAR Act passed in the House of Representatives yesterday after having passed in the Senate on March 22.

The STAR Act, which had 55 co-sponsors in the Senate and 370 co-sponsors in the House, is the most comprehensive childhood cancer legislation ever passed by Congress. It seeks to improve the lives of pediatric cancer patients and survivors through supporting pediatric cancer research, improving surveillance of childhood cancers, and enhancing resources for survivors.

“This important legislation supports the expanding number of scientific opportunities that exist today to advance pediatric cancer research and develop child-focused cancer treatments, while also helping childhood cancer survivors cope with the long-term impact of their previous treatments,” said AACR President, Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD, deputy director of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins. “For example, the entire field of pediatric cancer research is moving forward because we are currently seeing an ever growing number of innovative clinical trials specially designed for childhood cancers. We are taking advantage of numerous cutting-edge technologies to get to the root cause of these cancers, and we are realizing the promise of immunotherapy and combination therapies for an expanding number of pediatric cancer indications.”

Among other provisions, the STAR Act:

  • Authorizes the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to expand existing efforts to collect biospecimens for childhood cancer patients enrolled in NCI-sponsored clinical trials and to collect and maintain relevant clinical, biological, and demographic information on all children, adolescents, and young adults with cancer
  • Authorizes grants to state cancer registries to identify and track incidences of child, adolescent, and young adult cancers
  • Authorizes grants for pediatric cancer survivorship research and guides the Secretary of Health and Human Services to facilitate the identification of best practices for childhood and adolescent cancer survivorship care
  • Requires that the National Cancer Advisory Board include at least one pediatric oncologist to ensure pediatric cancer research concerns are represented in recommendations to the NCI.

“Finding cures for pediatric cancers is a major priority for the AACR, as is ensuring that childhood cancer survivors are able to overcome many of the late health effects associated with their prior treatments, including secondary cancers and organ failure,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “During the past few years, the AACR has been especially focused on making an important difference in the lives of children with cancer by bringing together the brain trust of the field to identify actionable steps that will accelerate progress against pediatric cancer.”

The newly passed legislation will complement current efforts of the AACR’s Pediatric Cancer Working Group (PCWG) in accelerating progress for kids with cancer and for childhood cancer survivors. The PCWG and its nearly 3,000 members works to establish childhood cancer research as a global priority supported by improved funding, the very latest technologies, and best educational strategies. The PCWG strives to provide a forum for communication and collaboration among basic, clinical, and translational researchers in academia, industry, and government on all aspects of pediatric cancer research. Additionally, the group serves as an interface, bridging the AACR with advocacy and legislative groups to promote the prevention and treatment of all childhood cancers.

Ongoing PCWG efforts are dedicated to recommending treatment and surveillance practices for childhood cancer predisposition syndromes, supporting the generation, characterization, and distribution of pediatric cancer models, facilitating the development of novel therapeutics for pediatric cancer indications, and advocating for increased research efforts dedicated to pediatric cancer survivorship.

Additionally, the AACR has sponsored Special Conferences in Pediatric Cancer during the past decade that have addressed the unique issues and challenges in investigating the biologic basis of childhood cancers and translating recent findings into new treatment approaches. The most recent of these conferences, “Pediatric Cancer Research: From Basic Science to the Clinic,” took place in Atlanta,in December 2017. Presentations examined the most recent research on novel strategies for modeling pediatric cancers, genomics and clinical trials, epigenetics, treatment resistance and toxicity, and disease relapse. Technological advances and strategies for translating basic science findings into treatments with a clinical impact, were also featured, including the most up-to-date findings on targeted therapeutics and immunotherapy.  

The AACR is a proud member of the Alliance for Childhood Cancer, which represents more than 25 national patient advocacy groups and professional medical and scientific organizations. The Alliance has been a leader in advocating for the passage of this legislation.

In addition, the AACR wishes to recognize the leaders in Congress whose diligent work has led to this important legislation, including the original co-sponsors of the bill: Senators Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island), Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia), Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland), and Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia); and Representatives Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Jackie Speier (D-California), Mike Kelly (R-Pennsylvania) and G.K. Butterfield (D-North Carolina).