Sen. Whitehouse Cancer Research Bill Becomes Law

Feb 25, 2013

Rhode Island vs. U.S. cancer death rates, 2009
Credit National Program of Cancer Registries / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has helped pass a new cancer research law that targets pancreatic and other hard-to-treat cancers. Whitehouse lost his own mother to pancreatic cancer several years ago. The legislation aims to boost early detection and treatment.

President Obama signed the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act into law last month. It directs the National Cancer Institute to create a new plan to advance research on diseases like pancreatic cancer that have some of the lowest survival rates. In the next six months, experts will examine where current research stands and the gaps in knowledge, as well as how many scientists are actively working in the field. Pancreatic Cancer Action Network head Julie Fleshman says there are more scientists studying pancreatic cancer today than there were a decade ago.

“But still not as many as there needs to be for a disease that is the fourth leading cause of cancer death, the incidence is increasing, the five year survival rate is only six percent," said Fleshman.

Fleshman says the workgroup must produce a final report in 18 months. And although the new law has no funding attached, Fleshman says it’s likely money will need to be found somewhere to boost research efforts on one of the deadliest of cancers.

In Rhode Island, pancreatic cancer is not as common as breast or lung cancer. But it’s the fifth leading cause of cancer-related death in the state.

Do you have insight or expertise on this topic? Please email us, we'd like to hear from you.