Save the Kids

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Just when you’re ready to throw the towel in on elected representatives that don’t seem to understand the first thing about real life outside Washington, one of them will do something that gives you a bit of hope that it isn’t as bad as it often seems.

Members of the US House and Senate put forth a lot of bills, many of them bordering on frivolous and meant to appease one campaign donor or another or to push the party line on an issue. It’s enough to make you ignore the whole lot of them.

But then one of them or a handful of them in this case, support a bill that would have a real effect on Americans across the country. Florida’s Senator Marco Rubio has done just that. He, along with Colorado Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner and Maryland’s Senator Chris Van Hollen introduced, or rather reintroduced the RACE for Children Act (Research to Accelerate Cures and Equity for Children Act) in the U.S. Senate. They were joined by U.S. Representatives Michael McCaul (TX), G.K. Butterfield (NC), Sean Duffy (WI) and Yvette Clarke (NY), who introduced a companion bill in the House. Those eight elected representatives are evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, as it should be for a bill that will save children’s lives.

RACE for Children will improve the development of cancer treatment specifically for children. You see, for decades – really forever, children have been treated with drugs not designed or tested specifically on kids. There’s big money to be had in developing cancer drugs for adults and there’s a lot of competition in that arena. And that has led to some amazing advancements in the treatment of adult cancer. Children’s cancer is rare enough that there is not much money in developing drugs to treat the more than a dozen types of pediatric cancer, some of which strike young adults.

In the past 20 years the FDA has approved almost 190 new cancer treatments for adults. In that same time, only three new treatments were approved for children. Three. Some of the drugs being used to help kids fight cancer were developed in the 1960’s. They’re not still in use because they are so effective. They’re being used because that’s all that’s available for kids. And too many kids are dying of cancer as a result.

So, why not use the adult drugs on kids using smaller doses? The majority of pediatric cancer diagnoses are not related to any adult cancer. Ever heard of Rhabdomyosarcoma? How about Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma? Neuroblastoma? Retinoblastoma? This list runs on and on and on. While you may not recognize these diagnoses, they strike terror in the hearts of parents every single day.

When an adult gets cancer, it usually starts in the lungs, breast, colon, prostate or skin. When a kid gets cancer, it may start in the white blood cells, nervous system, brain, bones, lymphatic system muscles or kidneys.

Kids cancer is different than adult cancer. Treating kids with cancer must be different also. Children are not just little adults when it comes to physiology – they are different, they handle chemotherapy differently.

The RACE for Children Act recognizes that. It will build on the Best Pharmaceuticals for Children Act and the Pediatric Research Equity Act to encourage  the development of cancer treatment for children, adolescents and young adults. A long overdue effort.

The RACE for Children Act is supported by a host of pediatric cancer advocacy organizations, hospitals, physicians and nurses including the Alliance for Childhood Cancer a group of medical and scientific organizations and patient advocacy organizations devoted to improving the care and survivorship of children and adolescents with cancer. When this many groups agree, it means something. In this case, it means that the RACE for Children Act has the potential to make a big difference for kids with cancer and their families.

Thank you Senator Rubio!

Consider contacting your Senator or U.S. Representative and asking them to support the RACE for Children Act (S.456/H.R. 1231). Help save kids with cancer.

 

Missy Layfield