New ideas strengthen fight against cancer, task force puts forth plan for ‘Cancer Moonshot’

Published 7:00 am Thursday, October 27, 2016

The trees may be turning red, orange, and yellow as the fall season gets underway, but for many pink is the color of October.

Pink ribbons, pink football cleats, and even a pink-painted fighter jet are just a few ways Americans are showing support during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

These popular awareness campaigns and national advocacy efforts have helped save millions of lives through advancements in the prevention, detection, and treatment of breast cancer. Although breast cancer remains the most common cancer in women other than skin cancer, it causes significantly fewer deaths today than it did two decades ago.

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The battle, however, is hardly won. According to the American Cancer Society, there will be nearly 250,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer this year. More than 1.6 million Americans will be diagnosed with some form of cancer. Skin cancer is still the most prevalent – a troubling fact that my wife, Gayle, has highlighted as a member of the Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program, testifying before the state Senate and penning op-eds focused on prevention.

Removing Barriers to Cancer Screenings

Our fight against cancer is gaining ground. Bipartisan support in Congress has led to increased funding for research at the National Institutes of Health as well as legislative packages for more innovation in health care. Innovation also plays a role in a new national initiative to launch a “cancer moonshot.”

The idea is to find research breakthroughs, develop better treatments, and achieve medical advancements that will help put an end to cancer’s heartbreaking impact on so many individuals and families. The Cancer Moonshot Task Force – chaired by Vice President Joe Biden and comprised of leaders from several federal agencies – released its recommendations this month. The plan sets out to accelerate research progress, producing a decade’s worth of results in five years.

I was pleased that recommendations by the Cancer Moonshot Task Force included a policy I have long supported to promote greater access to cancer screenings. In March 2015, I introduced this idea in the “Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act” with Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Ben Cardin (D-Md.).

Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers in our state, affecting more than 1,500 Mississippians annually. Given that most colorectal cancer is preventable, regular screenings and early detection of pre-cancerous lesions are particularly important. My bill would waive any co-payments or co-insurance for Medicare beneficiaries who need to have a tissue biopsy or polyp removed. This cancer screening should not come with unexpected costs.

Local Policy Forum to Focus on Colon Cancer Prevention

On October 26, my office will join business, government, research, and health-care leaders at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson for a policy forum on colorectal cancer research and prevention. Like the executive branch’s cancer task force, locally driven discussions and public-private partnerships are vital to accelerating the fight against cancer in our state and country. There is no better time than now for a “moonshot.”

By U.S. Senator Roger Wicker