PHILIPPI, W.Va. — A group of West Virginians is advocating for increased federal funding to research a cure for cancer.
Seven individuals recently spoke to members of Congress as part of the annual American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Leadership Summit and Lobby Day in September.
Annette Fetty Santilli, the West Virginia state lead volunteer for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said the group went to Washington D.C. with three requests.
The main goal, however, was to ask legislators to support a $2 million increase for the National Institute of Health, which would include a $300 million increase for the National Cancer Institute.
“I personally believe that is where the basis is, is the research to find out any kind of cure for all types of cancer,” Fetty Santilli said.
Fetty Santilli has a strong personal tie to the mission, because her brother died of pancreatic cancer.
“In the 10 years since he passed away, pancreatic cancer cases have continued to rise,” she said. “Right now it’s gone from the fourth to the third leading cause of cancer deaths, and it’s expected to be the second leading cause of cancer deaths by the year 2020.”
Research is the only way to make any strides toward preventing that rise, Fetty-Santilli said.
“Because we need to find out for sure what actually causes the cancer, and then find some way of treatment and also diagnosis,” she said. “Right now, usually by the time it’s diagnosed, the cancer has already spread to another organ, and there’s not a lot of hope for those patients.
“Fortunately the five year survival rate has raised to 9 percent in the past few years, but that’s not enough.”
The group’s second request was for co-signers of the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act, for which Sen. Shelley Moore Capito is the lead Republican co-sponsor.
Fetty Santilli said cancer patients are often back and forth between various doctors, who may each say different things in their visits.
“So what we’re looking for with passage of this bill is better education so there can be a captain of the ship, so to say,” she said. “One doctor can oversee everything to make sure what one doctor says coincides with what another doctor says. It’ll just make it easier for recovery and fighting the disease.”
The third request was in regard to barriers of colorectal cancer screenings.
“The way it is now, particularly with Medicare, if patients go in for colon cancer screening and there’s a polyp found, they will go ahead and take it out,” Fetty Santilli said. “That’s good and it needs to happen, but then because it goes from preventive to diagnosis, it also ends up that the Medicare patients will receive a bill of at least $300.”
Fetty Santilli said that often deters Medicare patients from going in for their regular screenings.
“So this is a chance to actually help those who are most susceptible to the disease, and more people will be apt to get their colonoscopy,” she said.
If Congress would move forward with the group’s requests, Fetty Santilli said the benefits will help not only cancer patients but West Virginia as a whole.
“A lot of the federal cancer research will come back into West Virginia through WVU and Marshall, and that will help stimulate economic recovery in our state as well,” she said.
Also in attendance at the annual American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Leadership Summit and Lobby Day were Ryann Moore, Lesa Hunter, Judy Schoonover Ritchie, Peggy Rutherford, George Blough and Brooke Blough.