Children's cancer is the #1 cause of death in children, yet the funding approved by Congress for Childhood Cancer is supremely low when compared to Breast Cancer Research which is the 6th leading cause of death in women. It is not okay that our children are dying because government funding is lacking. Cancer is the leading cause of death in children over all other childhood diseases combined! Children's Cancer Research needs to be at the forefront of funding. These children are our future and need to be taken care, stood up for, and protected, and this includes making them a priority in government funding for cancer prevention research. CHILDREN ARE DYING EVERY SINGLE DAY DUE TO CANCER. IT IS TIME FOR THE GOVERNMENT TO STEP UP AND PROVIDE SUBSTANTIAL FUNDING FOR CHILDREN'S CANCER.
Response to Petition
By Dr. Harold Varmus
Thank you for taking the time to participate in the We the People petition process. We launched this online tool as a way of hearing directly from you, and we are pleased that you have responded by presenting this idea.
Too many children and their families face the devastating effects of cancer. In fact, cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease for American children under the age of 15.
Still, there have been tremendous advances over the past several decades in the treatment of children with cancer. Childhood mortality rates from cancer have declined steadily since the 1960s. Current 5-year cancer survival rates approach 80% for all children under 20 years of age. Perhaps no disease better illustrates the impact of scientific advances than the most common pediatric cancer, childhood acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). Research has led us to understand the genetic alterations that are important in ALL, which has led to the development of better treatments. Survival from ALL continues to improve, with long-term survival occurring in over 80% of children diagnosed with ALL in 2011, compared to fewer than 20% of patients surviving 5 years prior to 1970. Despite this progress, more research is needed to continue to improve survival as well as to decrease the short and long-term side effects of current treatments.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI), an agency of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), funds research needed to drive improvements in the treatment of pediatric cancer. In the last ten years, funding for pediatric cancer research by NCI has increased nearly 50%. This funding supports multiple laboratories at NIH that are working in areas applicable to pediatric cancer. Even more NIH funds go to researchers at universities. Advances in basic research, including discoveries initially made in the study of adult tumors, have had an important impact on therapy for pediatric cancer. The NCI also funds special programs, an example of which is the Therapeutic Applicable Research to Generate Effective Treatments (TARGET) initiative, which aims to accelerate research on the genetic makeup of ALL and other pediatric cancers with the goal of developing more individualized treatments.
To continue to make progress in pediatric cancer, new scientific discoveries must be coupled with new therapeutic approaches that are tested in clinical trials. The establishment of pediatric cancer clinical research networks is a key element in developing improved therapies. This infrastructure is supported by the NCI, both through financial support of clinical trials performed at the NIH Clinical Center and, on a larger scale, through support of the Children's Oncology Group (COG), a national clinical trials network. The COG is currently engaged in clinical trials that aim to develop more potent and less toxic therapies for pediatric cancer.
The current success in treating pediatric cancers has led to large numbers of long-term pediatric cancer survivors with long life expectancies. For this reason, research into the long-term effects of treatment is also an NCI focus. The NCI-supported Childhood Cancer Survivor Study has enrolled more than 14,000 childhood cancer survivors and is generating data that have already altered medical approaches to these survivors. The data are also being used to identify areas in which improvements in treatment need to be made and to suggest approaches that would minimize long-term toxicity while maintaining or improving outcomes. Data from this study are expected to improve the treatment of all patients with cancer, adults included.
We are pleased by the progress that has been made, but we agree that continued research is key to achieving the necessary improvements in outcomes. We are committed to continuing to support outstanding pediatric cancer research with the goal of providing more effective and safer treatments for children with cancer. We are excited about future prospects for additional breakthroughs in the treatment of pediatric cancer.
Dr. Harold Varmus is Director of the National Cancer Institute