Current events have a way of bringing topics to the forefront of our consciousness.
Matters previously receiving little attention from small groups are often thrust into the headlines and become widely discussed by pundits, experts, bloggers, and the general public.
Such was the case, last week, when John McCain, the senior Senator from Arizona, and internationally recognized war hero who spent five and a half years as a POW during the Vietnam War, was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM).
GBM is the deadliest form of brain cancer. Studies suggest that GBM strikes approximately 18,000 Americans each year with a median survival of just over 14 months.
If you think this story sounds familiar, you’re correct.
Recent high profile GBM cases include Senator Ted Kennedy and former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Beau, both of whom passed away less than two years from diagnosis.
GBM does not discriminate; republicans, democrats, sports legends, such as Gary Carter, music icons, such as Ethel Merman, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends, and colleagues form a long list of patients and their families who have bravely faced this terrible diagnosis.
… We are beginning to win major battles across the cancer landscape, and it is imperative that the capital used to fuel the researchers on the front lines be continued…
Compared to the great strides and tremendous progress that the world has seen in the fight against many cancers, GBM remains one of the tumor-types that has not yet seen significant benefit. But we are making progress in the fight against this terrible disease.
Decades of U.S.-led research have brought about breakthroughs in personalized medicine; made immunotherapy, CAR-T, genotyping topics have led to huge improvements in survivability for many cancer patients not only in the United States but across the globe.
A War on Cancer – first declared by a republican administration in 1971 – was accelerated by the democratic-led Cancer Moonshot in 2016.
In December 2016, Congress ended the year with a tremendous bipartisan achievement by passing the 21st Century Cures Act authorizing $1.8 billion in funding for the Cancer Moonshot over 7 years and an initial $300 million was appropriated in fiscal year (FY) 2017 to fund Moonshot initiatives.
We are beginning to win major battles across the cancer landscape, and it is imperative that the capital used to fuel the researchers on the front lines be continued.
Pharmaceutical companies are frequent targets of national and political ire as the generators of high healthcare costs. It is a miscalculation to equate these issues with the need to maintain the momentum in the continuing struggle against what has been called the emperor of all maladies.
Funding from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) fuels the basic research that leads to new discoveries, clinical trials, and treatments. The United States’ leadership in the war against cancer has been as strong as its role as a military superpower. Our universities and government agencies form the front lines with our allies in national cancer centers around the world.
The leaders of the Bipartisan Congressional Caucus on the Deadliest Cancers, chaired by Representatives Leonard Lance (R-NJ), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Dave Reichert (R-WA) and Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) deserve our gratitude as strong allies.
The caucus raises awareness about the deadliest forms of cancer, defined as those with a five-year survival rate below 50% including cancers such as GBM and pancreatic cancer.
We should implore all our leaders in Washington to not only continue the moonshot, but to increase efforts. The moonshot can be most helpful in stimulating innovation among small biotechs who lead the way in cutting-edge translational cancer research and where most believe cures for rare cancers will be developed.
For instance, our company, DelMar Pharmaceuticals, with 15 highly-skilled professionals, is about to move forward into a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Phase III clinical trials with a potential new treatment for GBM.
We have demonstrated that our drug is able to circumvent GBM’s natural defense mechanisms, which render most patients’ tumors resistant to currently available chemotherapy.
There are many other small companies taking on the fight against cancer from different and just as exciting angles.
For small biotechs to continue developing new and promising treatments, to outflank and beat cancer, and to risk millions of dollars of capital requires the federal government to be a productive partner
Today, studies have shown that the budget for drug development and approval is approximately $2 billion and takes 10 or more years to achieve FDA approval.
On July 19, the House Appropriations Committee approved a funding bill that would, for a third consecutive year, allocate a significant funding increase of $1.1 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) allowing for a new surge in the war against cancer.
In the overall $35.2 billion budget to fund the NIH, the 21st Century Cures Act would get $496 million, most of it ($300 million) going to the Cancer Moonshot, led by former Vice President Joe Biden. By the time you read this, Senate Appropriations Committee will be considering the House’s appropriations level.
We respectfully ask the Senate to support the House’s bill – and if the spirit moves them, add just a little bit more to the NIH budget!
As these measures advance toward becoming the new fiscal budget, we as survivors, patients, researchers and advocates have an opportunity to have our voices heard and ensure that the clouds of partisan politics do not cast a shadow on the brightening horizon for those who are embattled in individual fights in this much bigger war against cancer.
Contacting your representatives to express our opinions on important matters is a privilege afforded all Americans. I urge you to do so. The Capitol Hill switchboard number is 202-225-3121.
Jeffrey Bacha is CEO of Menlo Park, California-based DelMar Pharmaceuticals, a company focused on fighting cancers like glioblastoma multiform (GBM), ovarian and other solid tumors. Bacha is also a contributing author for Onco’Zine.
last editorial review: August 7, 2017
Featured Image: MRI or magnetic resonance image of head and brain scan. Close up view, toned image. Courtesy: © 2017 Fotolia. Used with permission. Photo 1:0. Arizona Senator John McCain. Courtesy: © 2017 Jim Greenville; Arlington and Durango, USA. | This foto is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
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