Today, the Association for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) presented Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) with the annual Congressional Champion for Cancer Care Award in recognition of their ongoing commitment to legislation that improves the environment for cancer research, oncology practice, and the quality of care for patients. The award honors Members of Congress who are leading champions for patients and survivors of cancer, their families, and their cancer care teams.
Senators Burr and Cardin jointly introduced the CLINICAL TREATMENT Act in the United States Senate. The two were instrumental in getting bipartisan support for the bill and securing its inclusion in the end-of-year legislative package that passed Congress in late 2020. The bill improves patient access to clinical trials by guaranteeing coverage of the routine care costs of clinical trial participation for Medicaid enrollees with life-threatening conditions. Medicaid coverage of these costs has been one of ASCO’s top legislative priorities for a number of years and the passage of this bill will make it possible for more patients with Medicaid to participate in potentially life-saving clinical trials.
“We are so grateful to Senators Burr and Cardin for not only introducing this important legislation in the Senate, but for championing it to their colleagues, securing votes from Senators from both parties, and using their leadership to bring it across the finish line,” said Board Chair of the Association for Clinical Oncology Monica M. Bertagnolli, MD, FACS, FASCO. “Their hard work and support means that more patients will have access to potentially life-saving clinical trials. It will also help reduce disparities in treatment outcomes for vulnerable patients from underserved communities—disparities that have only been magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic. We thank the Senators for their ongoing commitment to improving quality of care for patients with cancer.”
In addition to his work as a lead sponsor of the CLINICAL TREATMENT Act, Senator Burr has been a leading champion in Congress for increased funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Throughout his career, he has supported investment and improvement in biomedical research and supported efforts to double the NIH budget in five years. This crucial increase in funding helps support researchers as they make advances to treat and even cure cancer and other life-threatening diseases. As the Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Senator Burr is committed to expanding access to treatments and cures, as well as fortifying the U.S. public health emergency framework in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Clinical trials play a critical role in advancing medical research and bringing hope to families battling devastating diseases, like cancer,” said Senator Burr. “That’s why I was proud to work with Senator Cardin last year on legislation that ensures Americans who receive their coverage through Medicaid are not discouraged from participating in clinical trials because they risk being denied coverage. I’m honored to receive ASCO’s award, and I remain committed to supporting policies that encourage innovation so more Americans can access cutting-edge treatments and cures.”
As a senior member of Senate Finance Committee, Senator Cardin has been a stalwart ally to cancer researchers, oncologists, and patients with cancer, supporting legislation to expand access to health insurance, cancer screening, and to increase equity in health care. He has also been an advocate for federally funded research and has continued to urge his colleagues to support robust funding for the NIH. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Senator Cardin supported additional flexibility and funding for the nation’s medical research enterprise, which continues to face numerous setbacks due to the pandemic.
“It is always tragic when a life is lost to cancer, but it is perhaps even more tragic when that loss could have been prevented,” said Senator Cardin. “By expanding coverage of cancer clinical trials, we can offer more patients the opportunity to access potentially life-saving treatments, regardless of their income. I will continue to be a strong advocate in Congress to help reduce persistent disparities in treatment and cancer outcomes by expanding access to insurance, screenings, and the highest quality cancer treatment.”
ASCO presented the awards to Senators Burr and Cardin during the 2021 ASCO Advocacy Summit, where Association volunteers from across the United States met virtually with lawmakers to discuss critical issues facing patients with cancer and their cancer care team.