Senators Seek to Reauthorize Bipartisan STAR Act to Combat Childhood Cancer

Senators lead effort to advance childhood cancer research, improve efforts to identify and track incidence of childhood cancer, and enhance the quality of life for childhood cancer survivors

In an effort to help thousands of children who undergo cancer treatment each year, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced the Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access, and Research (STAR) Act of 2022 (S.4120). This bipartisan legislation would reauthorize the Childhood Cancer STAR Act, the most comprehensive childhood cancer bill ever passed by Congress, which approved the measure unanimously in 2018. 

The STAR Act helps advance pediatric cancer research and child-focused cancer treatments, while also improving childhood cancer surveillance and providing resources for survivors and those impacted by childhood cancer.  Since being signed into law the STAR Act has helped deliver over $120 million to fund promising childhood cancer research and assist patients and families battling cancer.

“Reauthoring the STAR Act would mean more help for kids battling cancer.  It will target federal research to ensure the medical community is better equipped to diagnose and treat pediatric cancers and assist young patients and their families.  Renewing the STAR Act will get us closer to the goal of one day curing cancers in children, adolescents, and young adults,” said Senator Reed.  “The Childhood Cancer STAR Act will support cancer research and deliver needed assistance to children with cancer and their families.  It will develop new strategies to help survivors overcome late health effects, such as secondary cancers.”

“I was incredibly proud to be part of the passage of the STAR Act in 2018, which has made an important difference in the lives of children with cancer, we well as childhood cancer survivors and their families. Since that time, the legislation has resulted in unprecedented opportunities and funding for childhood cancer research, allowed us to better understand and track the incidence of disease, and improved the quality of life for childhood cancer survivors. This reauthorization will allow these opportunities to continue and bring us closer to a world without childhood cancer,” Senator Capito said.

“Far too many families in Maryland and across the country face the nightmare of a child with cancer – and while their stories are all different, all of these mothers, fathers, and children are looking for hope,” said Senator Van Hollen, who introduced the Childhood Cancer STAR Act during his time in the House of Representatives. “That’s why we fought to pass the initial Childhood Cancer STAR Act, and why we’re working invest in even more research and better treatments. Maryland is proud to be home to both NIH and NCI, and this investment will help them ultimately save lives.”

“Cancer is an unimaginable and heartbreaking experience for anyone—particularly for children who are diagnosed and the caregivers who support them in their treatment journey. The STAR Act Reauthorization takes a multifaceted approach to addressing childhood cancer by boosting research efforts, bolstering data collection, and improving the quality of life for all the brave children who’ve survived this awful disease,” said Senator Murkowski. “I’m proud to help introduce a comprehensive childhood cancer bill in an effort to help create a world for future generations where the phrase ‘you have cancer’ doesn’t exist.”

There are over one hundred different subtypes of childhood cancers.  Most new cancer diagnoses in children are for leukemia (28.1%) and brain/CNS cancers (26.5%), while malignant epithelial neoplasms and melanomas (23.3%) and brain/CNS cancers (21.9%) are top cancers for adolescents, according to Children’s Cancer Cause.

Childhood cancer research has progressed in recent years, but after accidents, cancer is still the second leading cause of death in children ages 1 to 14, according to the American Cancer Society.   Health experts estimate that nearly 10,500 children in the United States under the age of 15 will be diagnosed with cancer in 2022.

U.S. Representatives Michael McCaul (R-TX), Jackie Speier (D-CA), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), and Mike Kelly (R-PA), are introducing companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Summary: The Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access, and Research (STAR) Reauthorization Act of 2022

Expand Opportunities for Childhood Cancer Research:  Due to the relatively small population of children with cancer and the geographic distance between these children, researching childhood cancer can be challenging.  As such, the Childhood Cancer STAR Act reauthorizes and expands existing efforts at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to collect biospecimens for childhood cancer patients enrolled in NCI-sponsored clinical trials to collect and maintain relevant clinical, biological, and demographic information on all children, adolescents, and young adults with cancer.

Improve Childhood Cancer Surveillance:  Building upon previous efforts, this bill authorizes grants to state cancer registries to identify and track incidences of child, adolescent, and young adult cancer.  This funding will be used to identify and train reporters of childhood cancer cases, secure infrastructure to ensure early reporting and capture of child cancer incidences, and support the collection of cases into a national childhood cancer registry.

Help Improve Quality of Life Opportunities for Childhood Cancer Survivors:  Unfortunately, even after beating cancer, as many as two-thirds of survivors suffer from late effects of their disease or treatment, including secondary cancers and organ damage. This legislation will enhance research on the late effects of childhood cancers, improve collaboration among providers so that doctors are better able to care for this population as they age, and establish a new pilot program to begin to explore innovative models of care for childhood cancer survivors.

Ensure Pediatric Expertise at the National Institutes of Health (NIH):  Requires the inclusion of at least one expert in pediatric oncology on the National Cancer Advisory Board and would improve childhood health reporting requirements to include pediatric cancer.

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