Drop in funding for fighting cancer in children threatens clinical trials

Forty years ago, the survival rate for most childhood cancers was less than 10 percent. Today, 78 percent of all childhood cancer patients are said to be cured. Much of our dramatic success in fighting pediatric cancer results from the use of clinical trials, and today the vast majority of children with cancer are enrolled in them. Further, because researchers can obtain data from more patients, the effectiveness of procedures can be assessed more quickly and new treatments for pediatric cancer are developed hundreds of times faster.

Sadly, federal funding levels for pediatric cancer research continue to drop, putting clinical trials at risk. As a result, 20 studies will be put on hold and enrollment will decrease in new clinical trials by more than 400 children, threatening to negate the tremendous strides we have made toward our shared goal of eradicating this horrible disease.

The scourge of pediatric cancer in our society is pervasive and overwhelming. Pediatric cancer continues to be the leading cause of death due to disease in children in our country. Each day two classrooms of children in America are diagnosed with cancer. Nearly one in 300 boys and one in 333 girls will develop cancer before the age of 20. Yet, federal funding for pediatric cancer research pales in comparison to other diseases, despite the fact that each year cancer kills more people between the ages of 1 and 20 than asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and AIDS, combined. Clearly, a compassionate society, and one that is so abundant in its revolutionary research and dollars to advance it, can and should place a higher priority on combating childhood cancer.

In response to this urgent need, in March, we introduced the bipartisan Conquer Childhood Cancer Act, which among other things seeks $150 million in pediatric oncology research funding over the next five years. To further elevate public awareness about this bill and the need for additional research dollars, today CureSearch National Childhood Cancer Foundation is hosting “Reach the Day: Conquer Childhood Cancer,” where more than 300 families of children touched by cancer along with physicians, nurses and cancer advocates from 35 states will join together on Capitol Hill to urge Congress to support this legislation.

The passage of this bill will place a greater federal priority on pediatric cancer — one finally commensurate to the incomprehensible despair this disease brings to so many lives each year. We as a nation can do better in our fight against pediatric cancer, and the Conquer Childhood Cancer Act will help give our children the future they so deserve.