Flanked by the wife of the late actor and cancer victim Patrick Swayze, Rep. Anna G. Eshoo celebrated this week the passage of a law that requires the federal government to fight harder against the most deadly cancers.
Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, co-sponsored the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act, which was signed by President Barack Obama on Jan. 3.
The law directs the National Cancer Institute to focus on early detection and treatment of cancers with very low survival rates—including pancreatic cancer, which has the lowest survival rate of the five major cancers.
"A very dear friend of mine, Ambassador Richard Sklar, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer," Eshoo said at a news conference at Stanford Hospital Wednesday. "It really took a toll on us, and when I asked why I haven't heard from (victims) about this, he said, 'because they're all dead.'
Eshoo continued, "Pancreatic cancer is one of the recalcitrant cancers—one that is essentially a death sentence."
Julie Fleshman, president and CEO of the Manhattan Beach-based Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, applauded Eshoo's five-year effort and that of U.S. Representative Leonard Lance (R-NJ) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). “Today, we celebrate this important step, but we do so while honoring the memory of so many people whose lives were cut short by pancreatic cancer.”
The congresswoman said the law is meant to push such cancers to the front lines of research.
“My husband Patrick fought courageously against pancreatic cancer before passing away 22 months after his diagnosis,” said Lisa Niemi Swayze. “I know that Patrick would be proud, too, that he was a part of this fight, one that is going to change the outcome for so many future generations.”
According to Eshoo, pancreatic cancer has the lowest five-year survival rate of all the major cancers, at just 6 percent. Seventy-five percent of victims die within the first year of their diagnosis, she said.
“All cancer patients hope for cure, or at the very least, treatments to afford them longer quality filled time,” said Dr. George Fisher, Associate Professor of Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, in a statement on U.S. Rep. Eshoo's news release about the new law.
“When a cure is not available with standard treatments, they hope for breakthroughs in research that may benefit them. This legislation will give our patients with the most difficult cancers a reason to hope for better outcomes by accelerating the science and focusing research efforts on those diseases with the greatest need for improvement.”
A one page fact sheet with information about pancreatic cancer can be found here.
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Additional information came from U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo's office.