The Association for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) held its first-ever virtual Advocacy Summit and online Week of Action September 9 – 18, 2020. The largest Advocacy Summit to date, 170 ASCO volunteer leaders and oncology care providers participated in 200 virtual meetings with Members of Congress and their staff to advocate for policies that would improve access to high-quality, equitable care for people with cancer and ensure robust funding for cancer research. Participants represented 44 different states, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.
Specifically, ASCO volunteers asked Members of Congress to support:
- The CLINICAL TREATMENT Act (H.R. 913), which would improve access to clinical trials for patients with Medicaid.
- The Safe Step Act (H.R. 2279/S. 2546), which would add reasonable guardrails to protect patients from harmful step therapy protocols.
- Expanded telehealth and increased funding for biomedical research, which are more important than ever due to the impact COVID-19 has had on practices and research
Aside from constituent meetings, during the event ASCO presented its Congressional Champion for Cancer Care Award via video conference to Rep. Rosa DeLauro (CT-3) in recognition of her exceptional commitment to bipartisan support for cancer research and treatment. Rep. DeLauro discussed how her experience as a cancer survivor motivates her work, and fielded questions from the audience.
Immediate Past ASCO Government Relations Committee (GRC) Chair Melissa Dillmon, MD, also presented ASCO’s 2019 Advocate of the Year Award to current GRC Chair Carolyn Hendricks, MD, FASCO, for her important contributions and commitment to the Association’s advocacy efforts. ASCO advocates also heard from keynote speaker Nathan Gonzales of Inside Elections, who discussed the current state of the 2020 elections in the U.S.
While the Summit looked different this year, participants shared images, videos, and updates on social media to remind people that while they could not be on Capitol Hill, they are “still here” and ready to make their voices heard on behalf of patients with cancer and their providers.
During the online Week of Action, advocates across the country who did not participate in virtual meetings with Congressional offices used the ASCO ACT Network to contact their lawmakers and urge them to take action on the same issues that were discussed during the virtual constituent meetings. During the week of action, participants sent more than 750 letters to lawmakers from 30 states, a doubling of the letters sent via the ACT Network during the 2019 Advocacy Summit.
ASCO members are still encouraged to send messages to their elected officials to urge them to support increased access to cancer care through the ASCO ACT Network. News, advocacy, and analysis on cancer policy are available on ASCO in Action.