The 4% statistic regarding the investment of government funding into childhood cancer research has long been a rallying cry for pediatric cancer advocates nationwide. The number has served as a catalyst for countless conversations and strategies. However, these 4 pennies on the dollar are also cause for outrage and frustration among those searching for cures with limited funds.
The proposed $500 million in government funding towards childhood cancer research has brought with it a resurgence in awareness regarding the immense need for financial support. Cancer’s littlest warriors have finally been recognized. The fiscal shortcomings have been propelled back to a bi-partisan, public stage and begged the question, “what happens now?”
One week ago, I had the privilege of being part of a national conference call to address this very issue. The call, which was facilitated by Lance Leggitt, Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy; Admiral Brett Giroir, M.D., Assistant Secretary of Health; and Dr. Ned Sharpless, Director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), was the start of a discussion, which in my opinion, is long overdue. To be privy to the brilliant minds of Drs. Giroir and Sharpless discussing this topic was humbling and inspiring.
The conversation started with a bold challenge from Mr. Leggitt – the proposed $500 million is recognition that our appeals have been heard and will be addressed . . . not in the future but immediately. For those of us who have been intimately involved in the childhood cancer dialogue, the plea to create therapies that are not retro-fitted from adult treatments was also a welcomed discourse. Pediatric cancers are not the same as adult cancers and, therefore, should not be treated as such.
Dr. Giroir delivered a second challenge — while he applauded the impressive cure rates for childhood leukemia (which is the most common form of pediatric cancer), he noted there is much work needed to see the same results for other childhood cancers.
Finally, Dr. Sharpless made an urgent appeal for the sharing of research data. He noted that while the U.S. leads the world in expertise, technology, and infrastructure, our nation has proven unsuccessful in the sharing of resources and the disclosing of information in an efficient, effective manner. Having the means to document results and provide immediate access to those findings is a key component to accelerating opportunities and advancing cures.
It is indeed an exciting time for everyone working towards the goal of curing childhood cancer. It is a time to rally the troops. The government’s commitment to providing greater assistance is merely a down-payment on what is truly needed in fueling momentum towards the collaboration of our nation to help our kids. We must advance the cure rates in all childhood cancers; this cannot be done without adequate funding for research. And, if this research is not shared for the common good, we will all fall short.
The goal of our efforts at G9 remains unchanged. I am proud to say that this goal is Gold In September’s unique differentiator. Our sole focus has always been to advance translational research for new clinical trials – moving hopeful ideas from the research bench to the patient’s bedside. If the government is looking to create ways for information around treatments, therapies, and potential cures to be shared, we must fuel the pipeline with options and with hope.
Childhood cancer is the #1 disease-killer of children and the rates are increasing. G9 stands ready to respond to this call-to-action with a commitment to grow gold and increase the number of children surviving and thriving. So, with a stake placed firmly in the ground and a plea from our nation’s children, I humbly ask – how will you answer to this call-to-action?