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Congress must pass the Give Kids a Chance Act without delay

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Restating his mission to improve cancer treatment in the U.S., President Biden said: “When we work together in America, there is nothing beyond our capacity. So let’s show the world what’s possible. Let’s show the world we’re committed.”  

Today, he and members of Congress have an opportunity to do just that, by supporting the Give Kids a Chance Act, a bipartisan bill introduced by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and me that would expand children’s access to combination cancer therapy trials — and potentially save countless lives. 

In 2017, Congress passed the RACE for Children Act, which Sen. Bennet and I wrote to streamline the approval of pediatric cancer drugs and require that single-drug therapy trials be applied to children as well as adults. According to the chair of the Children’s Oncology Group, it was a “huge…game-changer.” Our new bill builds off of that law’s success to help more children.  

Medical doctors describe combination therapies, in which patients are treated with multiple drugs simultaneously, as “a cornerstone of cancer therapy.” They are more effective at counteracting drug-resistant cell growth, metastasis (the spreading of tumors throughout the body), and cancer relapse than single-drug therapies. 

In combination therapy trials, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves patients’ advance access to innovative combinations of molecularly-targeted oncology drugs or biologics. It’s one of the primary ways in which doctors develop new, life-saving cancer treatments. But because of outdated red tape, those trials are often limited to adults, and children suffering from pediatric cancers are stuck with less effective, single-drug treatments. 

There isn’t a good reason to deny children battling a horrible disease the care they need. Fortunately, we don’t have to be satisfied with the status quo. We can make even more progress by further reforming the Pediatric Research Equity Act (PREA) and expanding the RACE for Children Act’s pediatric study requirement to combination therapy trials. That is what our Give Kids a Chance Act would do. 

The Pediatric Oncology Section Head of Children’s Hospital Colorado confirms that our bill would “increase access to combinations of target cancer drugs” and bring new hope to “children and families who most need new treatment options.” Nor is that the only testimonial it has received. Dozens of hospitals, advocacy groups, and pediatric cancer research organizations have endorsed the Give Kids a Chance Act. Passing it should be common sense. 

The House of Representatives has already incorporated a companion piece of legislation, introduced by Reps. G. K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) and Michael McCaul (R-Texas), into its version of the FDA user fee reauthorization bill. Now it’s time for the House and Senate to incorporate the Give Kids a Chance Act into the final reauthorization bill, before those fees expire at the end of September, and pass it as soon as possible. 

Thirteen-year-old cancer patient Caroline asks us a weighty question: “Combinations of cancer drugs developed for adults should also be studied in kids. Don’t kids with cancer deserve the same chance to be cured?” 

The answer to that question is obviously yes. It’s why I call on my fellow policymakers in Washington to support the Give Kids a Chance Act. Our kids shouldn’t have to wait any longer — let’s turn this bill into law without delay. 

Rubio is the senior senator from Florida.

Tags Biden cancer therapy trials cancer treatment Give Kids a Chance Act Michael Bennet

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