Each year, about 15,000 children in the United States are diagnosed with cancer. It can be a life-altering experience for children and families.
Hasbro Children’s Hospital treats between 60 and 70 children annually who are newly diagnosed with cancer. And thanks to doctors, hospital staff, and researchers, there have been significant improvements in cancer treatment and pediatric cancer outcomes over the last decade.
To accelerate that progress, boost pediatric cancer research, and expand child-focused cancer treatments and resources for families affected by childhood cancer, President Biden signed into law U.S. Senator Jack Reed’s (D-RI) Childhood Cancer STAR Reauthorization Act (S. 4120) on January 5, 2023. The STAR stands for: Survivorship, Treatment, Access, and Research.
Today, Senator Reed joined leading pediatric cancer doctors at Hasbro Children’s Hospital and childhood cancer community advocates to celebrate passage of the Childhood Cancer STAR Reauthorization Act. This new law expands opportunities for childhood cancer research, improves efforts to identify and track childhood cancer incidences, and enhances the quality of life for childhood cancer survivors.
“We must ensure quality, integrated care for children with cancer and their families. And we need to accelerate progress when it comes to improving treatments and finding cures,” said Senator Reed. “Reauthorizing the Childhood Cancer STAR Act is a major step forward. prioritizes pediatric cancer research and adds some extra reinforcements and support for families in their time of need. It will help lead to more advancements in treating and curing pediatric cancer. It will develop new strategies to help survivors overcome late health effects, such as secondary cancers, and offer a lifetime of support.”
“The funding that Sen. Reed has worked hard to secure through the STAR Act reauthorization has a very significant impact here at Hasbro Children’s Hospital as we strive to fulfill our mission to continue to deliver better care, better cures and longer survival for our patients. I’m proud to say that we have over 50 different clinical trials that are active here at Hasbro Children’s at any given time, and this important trial work cannot happen without the STAR Act reauthorization and the people who help make it a reality. The impact of this law and its efforts to make childhood cancer a priority is truly a valued effort that is felt nationally, locally and individually,” said Rishi Lulla, MD, MS, chief of pediatric hematology/oncology at Hasbro Children’s Hospital.
“Senator Reed’s career-long persistence and leadership in the cancer space has been extraordinary. We are lucky in Rhode Island to have such an incredible advocate for cancer patients and their families serving us in the United States Senate,” said Ryan Strik, Rhode Island Government Relations Director for ACS CAN. “We here at ACS CAN remain committed to incentivizing childhood cancer research, developing new therapies, and ensuring childhood cancer patients and survivors have access to high quality treatment and care. We look forward to continuing our work with Senator Reed and our partners to put an end to cancer as we know it for everyone.”
For some children diagnosed with cancer, surgery alone may be all that is needed. For others, however, treatment may include chemotherapy/immunotherapy, radiation, surgery, or any combination of those, depending on the diagnosis.
Treatment can last from a few months to more than two years depending on the treatment plan. And families often require assistance navigating the diagnosis, and treatment process, as well as potential lifelong conditions for survivors of childhood cancer long after treatment is over.
Since Reed’s original Childhood Cancer STAR Act was first introduced in 2015 and was passed and signed into law five years ago, in 2018. Since then, it has helped deliver over $150 million to fund promising childhood cancer research, assist patients and families battling cancer, and streamline biobanking projects.
This year, Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, led successful efforts to set aside $80 million for childhood cancer programs in the fiscal year 2023 omnibus appropriations law, with $30 million through the Childhood Cancer STAR Act and another $50 million to fully fund the Childhood Cancer Data Initiative (CCDI), under the National Cancer Institute. CCDI seeks to gather data from every child, adolescent, and young adult diagnosed with a childhood cancer, regardless of where they receive their care, and use it to improve research, treatment, and care for patients.
Childhood cancer research has progressed in recent years, but after accidents, cancer is still the second leading cause of death in children ages 1 to 14, according to the American Cancer Society.
There are over one hundred different subtypes of childhood cancers. Most new cancer diagnoses in children are for leukemia (28.1%) and brain/CNS cancers (26.5%), while malignant epithelial neoplasms and melanomas (23.3%) and brain/CNS cancers (21.9%) are top cancers for adolescents, according to Children’s Cancer Cause.
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