Higgins Seeks National Attention On Cancer Research

January 24, 2011 Updated Jan 24, 2011 at 5:36 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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Higgins Seeks National Attention On Cancer Research

January 24, 2011 Updated Jan 24, 2011 at 5:36 PM EDT

( release ) As President Obama prepares to lay out his plans for the coming year in tomorrow’s State of the Union Address, Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) says renewed attention on cancer research holds the promise of not only improving quality of life but boosting our national economy.

“As we focus on national priorities and choose our investments wisely, cancer research is an area with an enormous potential to produce meaningful, life-changing results, create jobs and lower costs and it is one we can and should all unite behind,” said Congressman Higgins, a member of the Congressional Cancer Caucus.

A new study released this month by the National Cancer Institute estimates medical expenditures alone for cancer will reach $158 billion dollars by 2020, a staggering 27% increase over 2010 costs. In addition to direct health care costs, the American Cancer Society projects an additional $100 billion annually in indirect costs attributed to cancer.

Congressman Higgins points to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC), home to Roswell Park Cancer Institute and various cancer research high-tech businesses, as a shining example of the great economic potential associated with cancer research. The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus features dozens of cutting edge life science facilities supporting more than 8,500 jobs and creating an annual economic impact of $1.5 billion.

Western New York’s leadership in the area of cancer research dates back to 1897 when Dr. Roswell Park established what would become the nation’s first comprehensive cancer center and it continues as cutting-edge breakthroughs happen today, including a local BNMC company winning U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for the latest cancer-fighting drug just last week.

“Cancer is costing us in lives and dollars,” added Higgins. “For our nation to remain competitive and our national and local economy to grow we must give innovators the tools to demonstrate the great promise they are destined to deliver.”

Congressman Higgins has testified before the House Budget Committee advocating for the importance of a strong national commitment to cancer research. He also introduced a bill that would make “smart drugs” more affordable and accessible. His testimony and various other efforts in the area of cancer are delineated in a timeline available on his website at: http://higgins.house.gov/legislation/policy-positions/cancer-research.shtml

Congressman Higgins outlined his proposal in a letter to the President:

January 24, 2010

The Honorable Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Obama,

On February 26, 2009, I wrote responding to your strong remarks made in an address to Congress in which you stated a commitment to doubling funding for cancer research during your tenure. I was encouraged by your commitment then, and I remain so now, because I have long argued that finding a cure to cancer should not only be a goal of Congress, it should be America’s goal.

Since that time, with your leadership, we have made great strides to provide the health community more tools to fight cancer. Through an impressive investment of over 10 billion dollars, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act recognized the critical role research has in stimulating both economic investment and improving quality of life. Investment in research directly supports at least 350,000 jobs and leads to the creation of thousands of small businesses every year as discoveries are brought to market. This is particularly important to my community in Western New York, home to Roswell Park Cancer Institute and countless innovation firms striving to improve the lives of cancer patients. It is estimated that the overall cost of cancer in our country in 2010 alone was $263 billion, so the need for this work has never been more necessary.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act made groundbreaking progress toward improving the experience cancer patients have in our often fractured and confusing health care system – no longer can a cancer patient be denied coverage, have their coverage rescinded arbitrarily, or reach an annual or lifetime limit for coverage. With the creation of health insurance exchanges, offering affordable and comprehensive health care coverage to those without adequate coverage, we have set a benchmark that will stabilize and standardize insurance over time, ensuring that when citizens need coverage because of experiences with a disease like cancer, they will be able to rely on it. It will now be easier for cancer patients to enroll in clinical trials. And for seniors with cancer, the Affordable Care Act drastically improves prescription drug coverage by closing the Medicare Part D donut hole – making smart drugs more easily accessible.

That said, as you know, our work is far from over and I believe we are at the precipice of a new generation of treatments that will revolutionize how cancer patients get treated. Projects like the Cancer Genome Atlas, a collaboration between the National Cancer Institute and the National Human Genome Research Institute, hold significant promise to help us better understand the molecular basis of cancer and facilitate new research and treatments. Renewed efforts to stimulate clinical and translational research are critical as well, especially in this turbulent economic climate. And we need to continue to educate and make preventative screening accessible to all Americans, especially those that are hardest to reach, so that we can catch cancer before it spreads.

I am under no illusion that this year and the year following will be a challenging one for our government’s finances. But I urge you to hold firm on your resolve to fight for research funding within our Nation’s Cancer Program. These investments, while small, have ripple effects that last generations and improve the lives of millions. During a time such as now, where we face so many challenges, this resolve and commitment could not be more critical.

Sincerely,
BRIAN HIGGINS
Member of Congress