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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Senate should pass cancer bill now

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On Sept. 19, the House of Representatives took the rare step of unanimously passing a bill dedicated to the most difficult cancers. This broad bipartisan support is a testament to the hard work of thousands of activists. I know that my own father, who died from pancreatic cancer 13 years ago, would be extremely proud.

The Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act (H.R. 733) is the product of several years of work and the efforts of thousands of passionate volunteers, pancreatic cancer patients and advocates. This first substantive legislation for pancreatic cancer will require the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to evaluate its current efforts in researching the disease and focus on improving outcomes. It also expands these efforts to include other difficult-to-treat cancers.

This year, nearly 44,000 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Of those, an estimated 38,000 will lose their battle. The five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is just 6 percent, the lowest among all major cancer killers. This disease is so deadly because there is currently no early detection method and most cases are diagnosed in a late stage. It is the only one of the current top-five cancer killers for which both the incidence rate and death rate have increased in recent years. This trend needs to be reversed. Fortunately, members of the House recognized the urgency of the situation and decided to act. Co-authored by Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, California Democrat, and Rep. Leonard Lance, New Jersey Republican, the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act managed to pass the House unanimously, thanks to advocates who shared their stories of love, heartache and perseverance.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network's goal is to double the survival rate for pancreatic cancer by 2020. But we cannot act alone -- we need the help of our lawmakers. It is critical that the Senate now follow the House's lead and pass this bill. Our patients have no time to wait for another Congress.

JULIE FLESHMAN

President, CEO

Pancreatic Cancer Action Network

Manhattan Beach, Calif.

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