Cancer Survivors Should be a Priority
Cancer Survivors Should be a Priority
In our state, cancer is the leading cause of death for Texans age 85 and younger. It is also the leading cause of death from disease among Texas children.
According to the National Cancer Institute, at some point in their lives, nearly 40 percent of Americans will hear the words, “You have cancer.” And this year alone, nearly 1.7 million U.S. residents are expected to be diagnosed with the disease. The number is likely to rise as the baby boomer population ages.
Behind the statistics are people with loving friends and families, big goals and talents, and important lives to live. Yes, research dollars, medical breakthroughs and the health care system are important parts of the cancer equation. But the most important thing — above and beyond everything else — is the patient. And the fight against cancer must be rethought and realigned to deploy resources as effectively as possible and ensure that those resources are being used to protect lives and the quality of those lives.
When President Obama announced The National Cancer Moonshot initiative in his final State of the Union address — and tapped Biden to lead it — he made a bold declaration: “For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the family we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.”
Regardless of our partisan leanings, that’s a call to action we can all support.
This effort must facilitate collaborations with patients, doctors, researchers, philanthropies, patient advocates and pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to advance cures and improve access to care. It must emphasize patient-centered approaches that deliver the right therapy to the right patient at the right time. It must accelerate advancements in prevention and early detection.
The vice president recently announced that Don Graves, a cancer survivor, will oversee the cancer moonshot effort. As a a cancer survivor himself and a close advisor to the Biden, Graves must make important contributions to the initiative given his intimate understanding of the side effects — emotional, physical and financial — that can occur, both during and after treatment ends.
In February, the Livestrong Foundation met with representatives from the vice president’s office and others from the administration. Our message was unequivocally clear: Put the patient at the center of the Cancer Moonshot effort. Build it with people at its heart. The search for cures is important. Equally important are the patient perspective and quality of life of 14.5 million U.S. cancer survivors.
It is the mantra that we have been repeating for nearly 20 years.
The Cancer Moonshot effort should build on decades of work by Livestrong and others, such as the 2007 initiative by Texas legislators and voters to create the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas that put $3 billion toward new research and innovative efforts to help combat cancer in all its forms.
It also should fortify current initiatives, such as our partnership with the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas to create the Livestrong Cancer Institutes, which will have the simple but powerful mission of reinventing and revolutionizing the way patients and survivors are cared for and supported.
Decades of research — compiled with survivors’ input — have given Livestrong a unique and informed understanding of some of the major challenges cancer patients face: chronic pain, loss of fertility, emotional health and well-being, family stability, career impact and long-term financial hardships.
Our hope for the Livestrong Cancer Institutes is to create a comprehensive model that puts survivors’ needs above all else, from the medical to the emotional to the practical. It is an effort like no other, and we see ample opportunity to hone and replicate this model after its invention here in Austin.
The National Cancer Moonshot is a recommitment by our federal government to accelerate the fight against this awful disease. The Livestrong Cancer Institutes is our commitment to people living with cancer, designed to create a new patient-centered model that can help change the health care system for the better.
Everyone has a role to play in supporting the fight against cancer: advocate with policymakers, volunteer your time, and support breakthrough institutions like the Livestrong Cancer Institutes that take a new approach to serving patients and survivors. We are committed to keeping the patient at the forefront of the Livestrong Cancer Institutes, and we hope the administration remains equally committed to making the National Cancer Moonshot a patient-centered initiative.
Massey is the director of government relations at the Livestrong Foundation.