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Congress passes bill to fund children's cancer research

It appears that even in these contentious times Congress can act in a bipartisan fashion every once in a while. This week, the Senate unanimously passed the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act to increase funding for pediatric research. The bipartisan legislation was approved by the United States House of Representatives in December. Earlier this week, the legislation was passed by the Senate in a unanimous vote at the request of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The legislation authorizes $126 million for pediatric research over the next decade by redirecting taxpayer funds designated for political party conventions. We have previously demonstrated that government funding of cancer research is one of the few areas in which Americans have received a fabulous return on government investment. The legislation now goes to President Obama who is expected to sign it into law.

Gabriella Miller was a 10-year old girl who died of brain cancer last fall. In the final months of her young life, Gabriella became an activist and advocate – raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for cancer research and helping to launch a non-profit. She was quoted as saying, “If I go, I lose my battle, then I want other people to carry on with this war.”

Although cancer is much less common among children compared to adults, approximately 1 in 285 children in the United States will be diagnosed with the disease before the age of 20 according to the American Cancer Society. Cancer is a leading cause of death in children ages 5-14, second only to accidents. An estimated 10,450 new cases and 1,350 cancer deaths are expected to occur among children ages 0-14 in 2014. Among adolescents ages 15-19, 5,330 new cases and 610 cancer deaths are expected this year.

Once again, blood cancer figures prominently among children, with acute lymphocytic leukemia (26%), brain and CNS (21%), neuroblastoma (7%), and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (6%) being the most common cancers in children 0-14. The most common cancers among adolescents ages 15-19 are Hodgkin lymphoma (15%), thyroid carcinoma (11%), brain and CNS (10%), and testicular germ cell tumors (8%).

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