FROM LEFT: Gertrude Jones, vice president of Community Relations at Lifespan; Dr. William Sikov, medical oncologist, Rhode Island Hospital; Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse; Marlene McCarthy, R.I. Breast Cancer Coalition.
PROVIDENCE – Breast cancer survivors and advocates from Rhode Island gathered at Rhode Island Hospital on July 9 to discuss new federal legislation, “Accelerating the End of Breast Cancer Act,” that was introduced by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse on May 25.
The legislation, S. 3237, creates a commission tasked to identify promising research, encourage partnerships between the government and the private sector, and create opportunities for collaboration across scientific disciplines.
The proposed legislation being championed as non-partisan by Whitehouse has a significant number of Republican co-sponsors, including Sen. Susan Collins from Maine, Sen. Lisa Murkowski from Alaska, and Sen. Charles Grassley from Iowa
Marlene McCarthy, director of the Rhode Island Breast Cancer Coalition, explained how the legislation is a critical component of the National Breast Cancer Coalition’s strategy to end breast cancer by Jan. 1, 2020, because it will identify “promising opportunities, tools, technology and ideas not currently being prioritized for breast cancer by the public and private sectors, but which, taken together and applied to this issue, hold true promise in ending breast cancer.”
“We’re tired of hope. Hope is but a wish,” she said. McCarthy likened the challenge of ending breast cancer to putting a man on the moon or developing a polio vaccine. She dismissed the idea of potential failure to meet the goal, saying: “We have already failed. All the walks, all the races, and we still don’t know what causes breast cancer.”
The new commission, McCarthy continued, “will make sure that the correct questions are being asked and that researchers will collaborate to get the right answers.”
McCarthy added that, in her view, the commission created under the legislation would be able to help focus research on areas important to breast cancer survivors and advocates, such as metastatic disease, the spread of the cancer to other organs and parts of the body. “We don’t die from breast cancer, we die from metastatic disease,” McCarthy said.
While the language in the bill is not specific to looking at the different sub-types of breast cancer, McCarthy told Providence Business News the goal was “instill an energy, a collaborative approach,” to bring together what is known about the breast cancer biology and advances in technology in order to end breast cancer.
McCarthy also said there was a need to look broadly at environmental issues, addressing the “many issues in our environment that are disruptive to endocrine development, from the time a baby girl is born all the way through menopause.”
Dr. William Sikov, a medical oncologist at Rhode Island Hospital and an Associate Professor of Medicine at Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, also spoke in favor of the new legislation.