In 2001, more than 110,000 Americans will be diagnosed with hematological cancers leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma and more than 60,000 will die from these diseases. For many individuals with leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma, treatment options are limited and long-term survival is unlikely. Even for those who are treated successfully, the long-term effects of treatment can be devastating.
Research into the causes and treatments for these cancers is the key to improving the outlook for persons diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma. In 2000, the National Cancer Institute convened a blue ribbon panel of researchers, clinicians, industry, government and advocates to consider the status of research on hematological cancers and to identify opportunities and challenges for researchers in this field.
The report of the Leukemia, Lymphoma and Myeloma Progress Review Group (LLM-PRG) recommends several initiatives for reducing the length of time requires to develop and deliver new therapies for leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma. Advocates propose several actions to accelerate the pace of therapeutic development and to ensure that individuals with hematological cancers have access to quality care and new treatments.
Leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma advocates urge Congress to:
- Require that NCI develop, by December 31, 2001, a budget and business plan that will guide implementation of the LLM-PRG research recommendations. The plan should include specific action steps for implementing the collaborative strategies for drug development, including the Cancer Translational Research Allies Consortium (C-TRAC) program, outlined in the LLM-PRG report.
- Enact the Access to Cancer Therapies Act of 2001 (H.R. 1624/S. 913) to guarantee Medicare reimbursement for new oral anti-cancer therapies. Among the most promising new treatments for hematological cancers are oral drugs that are not currently reimbursed by Medicare. Enactment of H.R. 1624/S. 913 will ensure that senior citizens have access to those drugs.
- Enact H.R. 967, the Access to Cancer Clinical Trials Act of 2001. For individuals with cancer, treatment in a clinical trial may represent the best treatment option, and those individuals should not be deterred or prevented from participation because of reimbursement denials. In addition, removing reimbursement barriers is essential to the efficient and rapid accrual of patients to clinical trials and the success of the clinical research enterprise.
- Support the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program at the Department of Defense (DoD) and its expansion to include research on hematological cancers. The breast, prostate and ovarian cancer research programs at the DoD have been a valuable complement to the NCI research program, and the DoD research portfolio should include hematological cancer research. The hematological cancers offer unique opportunities to explore the cellular mechanisms that will ultimately be the answer to the problem of unregulated cancer growth.