Friday, February 12, 2016
Billy Long, Cancer Task Force is welcome news
In a recent staggering report from the American Cancer Society, it’s estimated that the number of new cancer cases in 2016 will reach nearly 35,000 in Missouri and top 1.6 million nationwide. More than one-third of those patients are expected to lose their battle with the disease. Unfortunately, however, cancer is far from being the only health threat to Americans. Currently, there are 10,000 known diseases, of which 700 are rare and only 500 have cures.
Advances in medicine that could help save patients are occurring more rapidly than ever. Yet, federal agencies tasked with drug and device approval, like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), are operating under protocols that make it practically impossible to keep up with innovation.
Thankfully, both the White House and Congress are taking action to revamp these outdated systems. In President Obama’s final State of the Union Address, he announced that Vice President Joe Biden would be tasked with leading a national “Moonshot” initiative to cure cancer.
This task force is welcome news to those of us on the House Energy & Commerce Committee, who worked diligently for more than two years on the 21st Century Cures initiative. Similar to the White House’s aim, this package shares goals for bringing our federal health care innovation screenings up to speed with technology. After passing the House last year with momentous bipartisan support, 21st Century Cures moved to the Senate, where a similar package is currently being debated.
Now, Vice President Biden’s cancer task force presents a major opportunity for collaboration with renewed momentum toward 21st Century Cures becoming law. Like the Vice President, I have also experienced having one of my children diagnosed with cancer and, even though my daughter’s treatment was extremely successful, I know that we are among the millions of Americans who have had to confront this indescribable anguish. Because of that, I trust that both sides of the aisle will look past politics and toward solutions in this life-saving endeavor.
Already, this new “Cancer Moonshot Task Force” has begun meeting to find solutions. Under Vice President Biden, this group of agency experts’ mission is to accelerate research innovation with heightened collaboration in the medical industry. Additionally, House Energy & Commerce Chairman Fred Upton has seized the opportunity to meet with task force members and urge them to work constructively toward a cancer ‘moonshot’ cure, and the many other treatments the 21st Century Cures is poised to bring about.
Going forward, I will continue doing everything within my power to make our federal health agencies work for patients, instead of blocking their treatments from becoming reality. The Cancer Moonshot Task Force and the 21st Century Cures initiative present a uncommon opportunity for this administration and Congress to work together to improve the lives of current and future patients.