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NCCR Honors Seven Members of Congress as ‘Champions’

NCCR Honors Seven Members of Congress as ‘Champions’

WASHINGTON—“Cancer crosses party lines and so should the battle against it,” said Rep. Rick Lazio (R-NY), one of seven senators and congresspersons honored by the National Coalition for Cancer Research (NCCR) with its Congressional Champion Awards.

In addition to Rep. Lazio, Sens. Connie Mack, Dianne Feinstein, and Tom Harkin, and Reps. Rosa DeLauro and John Edward Porter, and Sen. Mack’s wife Priscilla, were all recognized by NCCR president Carolyn R. Aldigé. Another honoree, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), could not attend the award reception and will receive his award at a separate ceremony. All the honorees have called for increased government funding for biomedical research.

“The NCCR,” Ms. Aldigé said, “represents 25 national cancer organizations, 65,000 doctors and nurses, 2 million cancer survivors and their families, and pharmaceutical companies and other medical suppliers.”

Senate Cancer Coalition

Sens. Mack (R-FL) and Feinstein (D-CA) founded the Senate Cancer Coalition in 1993 to gather bipartisan support for clinical trials and increased research funding. “Being a cancer survivor helps us understand the pressure, anxiety, and loneliness of having someone tell you that you have cancer,” said Sen. Mack, who was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in 1991. “Visiting patients and their families,” he said, “fills me with the energy to work at eradicating cancer.”

Priscilla Mack, who shared the Lifetime Achievement with her husband, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993.

Sen. Mack expressed dismay at the infighting among advocacy groups concerned with specific diseases. He voiced support for an ongoing doubling of federal funding for medical research over a 5-year period.

Rep. DeLauro (D-CT) praised Sen. Mack for “helping to ensure that there will be more survivors.” A 14-year survivor of ovarian cancer, Rep. DeLauro said that one of her prime motivations for running for Congress was an impulse to help others and make the most of her “second chance at life.” She said, “You never forget the moment of diagnosis, the trauma of facing your own mortality in such a profound way.”

‘Quarterback’ Physician

In accepting her award, Sen. Feinstein said that she, too, had run for the Senate in 1982 in order to do something about breast cancer. The years since have seen a 600% increase in funding for the disease, including $12 million from sales of the breast cancer postage stamp. But, she said, there is much more to do to guarantee equality of treatment. “I want to see every cancer sufferer get state-of-the-art treatment,” Sen. Feinstein said.

She noted that cancer patients across the country face very uneven treatment prospects in the absence of national protocols and said that every cancer patient should have a “quarterback” physician to oversee his or her care.

Rep. Lazio, founder of the House Cancer Awareness Working Group, said, “We have to put faces before the numbers, but our approach must be based on facts.” To speed research on new treatments, Rep. Lazio called for legislation to reimburse prescription drugs as well as clinical trials approved by a hospital review board. “We need to make sure that insurance companies pay their fair share,” he said.

Sen. Harkin (D-IA) said that “cancer has hit my family very hard.” He has lost one brother to thyroid cancer, another to prostate cancer, and two sisters to breast cancer. He vowed not only to double National Institutes of Health (NIH) appropriations but also to put scientific research on a sound, long-term footing. “This is a time when we cannot afford to cut back on research,” he said.

Rep. Porter (R-IL) said that his Health and Human Services subcommittee “could not be more committed on a bipartisan basis to biomedical and cancer research.”

The committee’s goal, he said, is to try for a second 15% funding increase for the NIH. While that mark may not be achievable at first, he cautioned, obtaining the second increase would make the proposed doubling of NIH funds over the following 3 years easier. “We have to inform the Congress and the President that this is a priority of the American people,” Rep. Porter said.

Also at the reception, the NCCR recognized its sustaining members: AstraZeneca, Bayer Corporation, Genentech, Inc., Ortho Biotech Inc., and Siemens Corp.

 
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