Rep. DeLuca calls on President Trump to keep commitment to cure cancer

Recently the American Cancer Society released its annual report on cancer statistics and I am pleased to see that the war on cancer is making positive strides. Cancer touches virtually every family in our nation, and is the second-leading cause of death in the U.S. with approximately 1,650 people dying every day from some form of the disease. Almost 1.7 million people nationwide will receive the dreaded news that they have cancer in 2017; more than 77,000 of those people will be Pennsylvanians.

Yet, it is important to note that great advances in treatment and detection are saving lives, preserving families and allowing people to continue to be productive citizens longer than ever before. More than 15.5 million Americans who were diagnosed with some form of cancer, were alive in the beginning of 2016, and we’ve seen a 25 percent decline in the cancer death rate in the past 20 years. However, there is still much work to be done. 

Advances in treatment such as immunotherapies and bio-technical research are changing the course of many forms of this disease. Lives are being saved and the future looks promising. But that future can only continue to shine brightly with the continued relentless dedication and devotion to finding a cure as has been put forth over the past few decades. Such research costs money and requires cooperation between entities. However, this research also relies on governmental support, not just financially, but administratively through policy initiatives and leadership.

When President Obama announced the creation of the Cancer Moonshot Task Force and asked that we put forth a concerted national effort to end cancer as we know it, I was struck by how big the task is. Yet I realize how successful our nation has been when faced with other, equally large health challenges.

Jonas Salk, who was from Pittsburgh, developed the vaccine to prevent polio with only his brain and a microscope. Smallpox has been eradicated with vaccines worldwide. Modern scientists have discovered the causes of tetanus, rabies, yellow fever, measles, whooping cough and others, which can also be prevented or stopped in their tracks with vaccines. 

Yet cancer continues its destruction of one's body, one's mind, one's personality, one's family and friends, one's financial resources and one's dignity. There must be national, state and even local support of research and treatment efforts if we are going to win this battle. There must be a collective voice, for all those individual voices, tired, weak and simply unheard – yet touched by this disease.

Our country is undergoing a leadership transition, as President Obama, and Vice President Biden have left office; their Cancer Moon Shot Initiative cannot be allowed to disappear or fade from the agenda. As President Trump selects his cabinet and appoints his advisors, it is my hope that they will see the need for financial, administrative and policy leadership in continuing the Moonshot program. The direct medical care costs alone, an estimated $87 billion in 2014, merit the attention of policy makers in Washington.

We’ve seen private sector individuals, as well as corporate entities and foundations, standing up to cancer and donating millions of dollars to strengthening research endeavors. We’ve seen millions of dollars earmarked from the federal and state governments to institutions that are dedicated to finding a cure for cancer. This momentum cannot be forgotten or relegated to the back burner with the change in administration in Washington. 

President Trump, and many of his family members and supporters, a great number of whom are multimillionaires and billionaires in their own right, certainly have the resources, personally and through various foundations and other charitable causes with which they have worked in the past, to provide funding and support this battle.

I firmly believe the desire and skill exist to cure cancer. The money absolutely does not. That is why I am challenging political candidates and public office holders, particularly at the federal level, who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars campaigning to get elected and re-elected to office, as well as those chosen to lead administratively, to take a percentage of their personal funds and earmark that money for cancer research instead of election billboards and funding radio and television spots. That investment and return alone could be monumental. We need to adopt this new mindset now. The next generation cannot wait another 40 years for a cure.

I implore the incoming administration of President Trump to take up the fight and continue current, promising momentum in finding a cure for cancer. We are making a difference in the fight; now is not the time to slow our efforts.

I am hopeful that this new administration will continue to lead the charge for a real and concerted effort and support collaboration efforts, back information sharing and promote an all-out national effort to find a cure sooner, rather than later. I appeal to President Trump to recognize the importance of this initiative to find a cure for cancer, and to actively promote and support a national effort to shoot for the moon. 

State Rep. Tony DeLuca

Democratic Chairman, House Insurance Committee

32nd Legislative District, representing portions of Allegheny County