Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, took to the Floor of the House of Representatives to recognize Tuesday as World Cancer Day - a time to raise awareness about the impacts of cancer worldwide, and to come together to work toward a cure.
Higgins, a member of the House cancer caucus, pointed out a new report from the American Cancer Society said the death rate from cancer has declined by 20 percent over the past two decades - a decrease that translates into 1,340,400 cancer deaths avoided during this time period. He discussed how this development is due in no small part to this nation's commitment to medical research, but warned now is not the time to take the foot off the gas. He said we must continue to make funding scientific and medical research a top priority
Below are Higgins' remarks:
"I join with my colleague from Pennsylvania in recognizing that today, Feb. 4, is World Cancer Day, a day in which we raise awareness about the impacts of cancer worldwide and join forces to work to work together to find a cure.
"If America does not lead the world in cancer research, there is no leadership in cancer research in the world.
"A newly released report from the American Cancer Society says that the death rate from cancer has decreased by 20 percent over the past two decades. Thirty years ago, less than 50 percent of those who were diagnosed with cancer lived beyond five years of their diagnosis. Today, it's 65 percent for adults and 80 percent for children.
"Cancer research needs to be sustained if it's to be effective. Ten years ago, 25 percent of all those grants that came into the National Cancer Institute were funded. Today, it's less than 8 percent. We're not only losing important research, but we're also losing talented researchers who leave the field because of a lack of public funding for cancer research.
"Historically, there were three ways to deal with cancer: You could cut it out through surgery, you could burn it out through radiation, or you could destroy it through toxic chemicals, or chemotherapy. Chemotherapy was developed in Buffalo in 1904 at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. After those traditional cancer treatments with some debilitating side effects, a new generation about 15 years ago was developed to treat cancer called targeted therapies. These are therapies that attack fast-growing cancer cells without destroying healthy cells. These targeted therapies led to promising new therapies in breast cancer: herceptin which treated a very difficult late-stage cancer; also, gleevec, which was highly effective in treating leukemia.
"Today, the prestigious journal Science just declared that, in 2013, the most important scientific discovery was something called immunotherapy. Immunotherapy uses several strategies, including vaccines, to treat the body's immune system to naturally fight cancer. What the promise is in many clinical trials that are occurring across this nation, including at Buffalo's Roswell Park Cancer Institute, is longer remissions without the debilitating side effects.
"We have a lot to learn about cancer. It's not one disease; it's hundreds of diseases. Lifestyles play a very important part in the incidences of cancer both here in this country and throughout the world. Eighty-nine percent of all lung cancers are due to smoking. Thirty percent of all cancers are a direct result of tobacco use. In our lifetime, one in every three women will develop invasive cancer in their lifetime; one in two men will develop invasive cancer because men smoke more.
"But we need to know that early detection is also important, as well. Less than 10 percent of cancer deaths are attributed to the original tumor. It's when cancer moves, when it advances, when it metastasizes to a vital organ is when cancer becomes lethal. The cancer cells crowd out the healthy cells and render that organ, which we need to live, useless.
"So today, on World Cancer Day we are reminded about all the work that has been done, all the progress that has been made, and all the progress still yet to be made. We also learn that, while it's World Cancer Day, America has a unique role in the history, currently, and prospectively in developing the next generation of cancer treatments."
A recent American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network report showed that, in 2011, $23.6 billion in NIH-supported medical research generates $69 billion in other new economic activity, creating and supporting nearly 433,000 jobs.