Senator Feinstein Introduces National Cancer Act of 2002

April 1, 2002

WASHINGTON-Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) has introduced legislation to update the National Cancer Act and "form a new battle plan to fight cancer and help us find a cure." Her bill-the National Cancer Act of 2002-would implement a number of the wide-ranging recommendations made last year by the National Cancer Legislation Advisory Committee (NCLAC).

WASHINGTON—Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) has introduced legislation to update the National Cancer Act and "form a new battle plan to fight cancer and help us find a cure." Her bill—the National Cancer Act of 2002—would implement a number of the wide-ranging recommendations made last year by the National Cancer Legislation Advisory Committee (NCLAC).

Sen. Feinstein announced her bill at a Capitol Hill press conference. At the time of her announcement, 28 other senators had joined as co-sponsors of the bill.

1971 National Cancer Act

The senator initiated the reform effort after concluding that the original National Cancer Act, signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon in December 1971, needed to be modernized and re-energized. She serves as chair of the Senate Cancer Coalition and vice chair of the National Dialogue on Cancer, a group of 150 organizations involved in the disease.

At her instigation, NCLAC was formed in 1999, with John Seffrin, PhD, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society, and Vincent T. DeVita, Jr., MD, director of the Yale Cancer Center and a former director of the National Cancer Institute, serving as co-chairs.

In preparing their report, NCLAC members heard from 250 cancer experts and stakeholders and nine federal agencies, and conducted interviews with more than 80 cancer survivors and advocates, as well as leaders in science, academia, and private industry. Their report contained 34 recommendations.

Sen. Feinstein planned to introduce her bill last fall but delayed doing so after the September 11 terrorist attacks and the refocusing of congressional attention on national security. In finally submitting the measure, she expressed the hope it would serve as a rallying cry for the entire cancer community. "In order for this bill to pass Congress, we need a united front," she said.

Among its provisions, the new legislation would do the following:

  • Increase the approval percentage of NCI qualified research grants to 40% during the next 5 years and provide greater funding for basic research, drug development, and the improvement of existing treatments.

  • Provide $100 million annually for 5 years in grants and incentives to translate basic research into clinical uses. The bill would also require private and public insurers to cover the routine care costs of patients participating in clinical trials.

  • Increase the number of cancer researchers through several incentive programs. One of these would be a $190.5 million grant program to reduce the medical school debts of 100 physicians who would agree to spend at least 3 years doing cancer research. A second would raise the salaries of up to 1,000 postdoctoral fellows over 5 years.

  • Encourage production of new orphan drugs for patient populations of less than 200,000 through tax and marketing incentives.

  • Require public and private health insurers to pay physicians, preferably oncologists, to serve as the overall managers of care for cancer patients. The aim is to have one physician coordinate each patient’s care and guide him or her in making difficult decisions.

  • Give the Food and Drug Administration power to regulate the content of tobacco products and their marketing to children.

  • Create new prevention and early detection measures. The bill would require health insurers to pay for cancer screening, smoking cessation, nutritional counseling, and the genetic testing of high-risk individuals.

It would also provide $250 million to support the Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program for low-income women administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and add another $50 million to the program to fund a demonstration screening program for colorectal cancer.