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U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) have led a letter urging Congress to provide $30 million to the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Health and Human Services to fund the childhood cancer programs established in the Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access, and Research (STAR) Act.These programs will advance pediatric cancer research and child-focused cancer treatments, while also improving childhood cancer data collection and analysis and providing resources for survivors and those impacted by childhood cancer. The STAR Act recently passed the Senate unanimously, and, given previous House passage, it is expected to be signed into law before FY 2019. The legislation was introduced by Senators Van Hollen and Reed in addition to Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) in February 2017. In 2009, when Senator Van Hollen was serving in the House, he and Congressman McCaul co-founded the Childhood Cancer Caucus as a platform to advocate for children and families across the country who have been impacted by this life-altering diagnosis.

In their letter, the Senators write,“While some progress has been made in pediatric cancer research – leading to a decline in childhood cancer deaths by almost 70 percent over the last four decades – cancer is still the leading cause of death by disease past infancy among children in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). And while survival rates for some forms of childhood cancer like leukemia have increased to greater than 85 percent, the median survival rate for other childhood cancers such as diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma is less than one year.”

They continued,“With the goal of raising overall survivorship rates, the Childhood Cancer STAR Act authorizes key research initiatives, such as biorepositories at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and surveillance at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while focusing on some of the least-studied and understood childhood cancers Further, childhood cancer survivors continue to face significant health issues requiring specialized follow-up care for the rest of their lives.”

The Senators closed the letter stating,“We ask that you also fully fund the Childhood Cancer STAR Act provisions to develop best practices for the treatment of late effects of childhood cancers, to improve collaboration among providers so that doctors are better able to care for this population as they age, and to create innovative modelsof care for childhood cancer survivors.”

In addition to Senators Van Hollen and Reed, this letter was signed by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Debbie Stabenow (D- Mich.), and Gary Peters (D-Mich.).

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Van Hollen actively fights for Maryland interests and works to negotiate the details of each bill. He has teamed up with his colleagues to join and lead a series of letters on particular areas of interest.

The letter can be foundhereand below.

Dear Chairman Blunt and Ranking Member Murray:

As you begin work on the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill, we urge you to provide $30 million to fund the childhood cancer programs established in the Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access, and Research (STAR) Act. This legislation recently passed the Senate unanimously, and given previous House passage, we have every expectation that it will be signed into law before the start of FY 2019.

While some progress has been made in pediatric cancer research – leading to a decline in childhood cancer deaths by almost 70 percent over the last four decades – cancer is still the leading cause of death by disease past infancy among children in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). And while survival rates for some forms of childhood cancer like leukemia have increased to greater than 85 percent, the median survival rate for other childhood cancers such as diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma is less than one year.

With the goal of raising overall survivorship rates, the Childhood Cancer STAR Act authorizes key research initiatives, such as biorepositories at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and surveillance at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while focusing on some of the least-studied and understood childhood cancers.

Further, childhood cancer survivors continue to face significant health issues requiring specialized follow-up care for the rest of their lives. As many as two-thirds of childhood cancer survivors will develop a serious or life threatening condition, such as secondary cancers and organ damage. As a result, childhood cancer survivors often need advanced follow-up care long after battling cancer and we need to ensure that health care professionals are equipped to provide that care for these kids in their adolescence and into adulthood.

As such, we ask that you also fully fund the Childhood Cancer STAR Act provisions to develop best practices for the treatment of late effects of childhood cancers, to improve collaboration among providers so that doctors are better able to care for this population as they age, and to create innovative models of care for childhood cancer survivors.

We greatly appreciate your support of the Childhood Cancer STAR Act this year to ensure that these efforts come to fruition.