Caltagirone advocates for pediatric cancer research funding

HARRISBURG, Sept. 18 – State Rep. Thomas Caltagirone stood with other advocates on Monday and pushed for funding for research into pediatric cancer, to mark September as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Pediatric cancer is the leading cause of death by disease among those 1 to 14 in the United States. It is estimated that a child is diagnosed with a form of childhood cancer every two minutes, with an average of seven children dying every day across the United States.

“We desperately need to increase funding for research into childhood cancer. The vast majority of money collected goes toward adult cancer research,” said Caltagirone, D-Berks. “We have to take care of our most vulnerable residents – our children. Funding is the key to research breakthroughs that will result in better treatments and eventually a cure for pediatric cancers.”

Caltagirone has introduced a package of bills that would combine to raise money for pediatric cancer research hospitals.

Two of those bills – one to create a checkoff box on the state income tax form to allow contributions to research, and another to create a similar box on driver’s license and vehicle registration forms – unanimously passed the House and await action in the Senate.

“What we are trying to do is raise over $100 million over a 10-year period, to be divided equally among the four research hospitals for children in Pennsylvania,” Caltagirone said, adding that his proposals would not have an impact on the General Fund.

Several families of children who have fought cancer attended a news conference with Caltagirone on Monday. Parents spoke of the moments they received the devastating news that their children had cancer, the grueling treatments they received, and the debilitating side effects for those who are cancer-free.

“Our kids can’t wait any longer. They need better treatments that will have fewer long-term side effects and more cures,” said Jennifer Kratzer, co-director of the PA National Children’s Cancer Consortium. Her son, Collin, underwent multiple surgeries, chemotherapy and other treatments to survive cancer, though he still faces serious side effects.

Christopher Winters, president of the National Children’s Cancer Consortium, said that 46 children receive a cancer diagnosis each day.

“Those are the reasons we are doing what we are doing,” he said, urging Pennsylvania residents to ask their senators to move Caltagirone’s bills forward.