Republicans join president in signing STAR Act into law to battle childhood cancer

Several Republican members of Congress who were instrumental in developing and advancing bipartisan legislation to hasten pediatric cancer research and provide resources for child patients on June 5 joined the president at the White House to sign the bill into federal law.

“This is an important day for all those affected by childhood cancer — kids who are currently battling cancer, survivors and their loved ones,” said U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), who introduced the Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access, and Research (STAR) Act of 2018, S.292, along with U.S. Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) last February.

“Not only will this legislation help all of these individuals, but it will also improve future outcomes and survival rates, providing a new sense of hope and optimism for the future,” Sen. Capito said following the signing ceremony.

Despite progress in pediatric cancer research — with deaths from childhood cancer declining nearly 70 percent during the last 40 years — childhood cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease past infancy among children in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute (NCI).

NCI estimates that 10,380 American children and adolescents up to age 14 years were diagnosed with cancer within the last year and 1,250 will die because of it.

“We’ve made great progress when it comes to improving cancer research and outcomes, and this legislation — now law — will help us continue and strengthen those efforts,” Sen. Capito said. “This has been a true bipartisan effort and one that I am so proud to have helped lead with Senator Reed.”

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), who also attended the signing ceremony on Tuesday, applauded President Donald Trump for signing what he called “an important bill that will help researchers and young patients in Nevada fight against pediatric cancers.”

“This new law supports survivors and gives our nation’s top disease fighters the critical resources they need to develop new treatments to save lives,” said Sen. Heller, who was among the bill’s 55 U.S. Senate cosponsors.

“It represents an important step in our battle to put an end to cancers that cut short too many young lives, and I was proud to support it and help send it to the President’s desk,” he added.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, the identical bill, H.R. 820, also was introduced last February by U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), who was joined by original cosponsors U.S. Reps. Mike Kelly (R-PA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC). All four lawmakers are also co-chairs of the congressional Childhood Cancer Caucus. H.R. 820 garnered a total of 371 cosponsors.

The Senate approved S. 292 on March 22 by unanimous consent. The House then received S. 292 that month and on May 22 approved the measure by voice vote. S. 292 was presented to the president on May 24 and he signed it into law on June 5.

“What an exciting day,” Rep. McCaul tweeted. “The Childhood Cancer STAR Act is now law! By elevating the fight against childhood cancer at the National Institutes of Health, and giving them more tools to be more effective in this fight, we will find the best solutions and care for our children.”

Rep. Mike Kelly also sent out a tweet: “The Childhood Cancer #STARAct has been signed into law! I was honored to be in the Oval Office this evening as @POTUS enacted this historic bill, & was proud to be an original co-sponsor of it in Congress. With tools like this, the fight to end pediatric cancer can & will be won!”

Also joining the president at the signing ceremony was  U.S. House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chairman Michael Burgess (R-TX), who pushed S. 292 quickly through his panel once it was received for consideration last month.

“It was a privilege to join President Trump today as he signed the Childhood Cancer STAR Act into law,” Rep. Burgess said. “Building on the work of the 21st Century Cures Act, this law will help to deliver innovative treatments – and cures – to America’s youngest cancer patients.”

Rep. Burgess added that he was grateful for the stories and bill support shared by young patients and cancer survivors, including Sadie Keller, a childhood cancer survivor and constituent from his home state district.

“Now the law of the land, the Childhood Cancer STAR Act offers renewed hope to these children and their families, and fulfills yet another promise to the American people,” said the congressman.

Rep. Burgess also issued a joint statement with U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) regarding S. 292 becoming law. The lawmakers noted that not only will the new law help advance research and treatments for pediatric cancer, “S. 292 will also bolster the surveillance of pediatric cancer, and require the National Cancer Advisory Board to have at least one pediatric oncology expert on its board.”

“Today is a day for hope,” Reps. Walden and Burgess said. “From the youngest patients battling cancer to those who care for them, the Childhood Cancer STAR Act is a win that will change lives. It’s a big day for our youngest fighters, and it’s one that can change the course of how we research and treat this terrible disease.”

The STAR Act will expand opportunities for childhood cancer research, improve efforts to identify and track childhood cancer incidences, and enhance the quality of life for childhood cancer survivors, according to a summary provided by Sen. Capito’s office.

Such goals will be accomplished, according to the summary, via numerous provisions in the act, including those that will:

  • Authorize NCI to expand existing efforts to collect bio-specimens for childhood cancer patients enrolled in NCI-sponsored clinical trials to collect and maintain relevant clinical, biological and demographic information on all children, adolescents, and young adults with cancer;
  • Authorize grants to state cancer registries to identify and track incidences of child, adolescent and young adult cancer. Funding will be used to identify and train reporters of childhood cancer cases, secure infrastructure to ensure early reporting and capture data of child cancer incidences, and support the collection of cases into a national childhood cancer registry;
  • Establish a new pilot program to begin to explore innovative models of care for childhood cancer survivors.

The STAR Act addresses the major concerns facing the pediatric cancer community: survivorship, treatment, access and research, said the House members who introduced H.R. 820 last month in a joint statement.

“This bill is the most comprehensive childhood cancer bill to ever pass Congress,” Reps. McCaul, Kelly, Speier and Butterfield said. “Childhood cancer remains one of the deadliest killers of our kids and we as a Congress, and a nation, must say, ‘enough is enough.’”