In March 2015, in the middle of my public speaking class’s campaign for With Purpose, the FDA approved the drug Unituxin to treat high-risk neuroblastoma. This made it the third of all drugs designed specifically for childhood cancer to be approved in the 21st century, joining Clolar (2004) and Erwinaze (2011), both used to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The approval of Unituxin was in large part spurred by the Creating Hope Act of 2011, which created incentives for pediatric drug development in the form of priority review vouchers. During the semester, I gave a motivational speech encouraging my classmates to ask their members of Congress to reauthorize this act. Unituxin’s approval during our campaign felt like a meaningful coincidence, affirming that it was the right time to get involved and the right time to support legislation.
Now is another opportune time to support legislation. The Creating Hope Act was pioneered by Kids V. Cancer, one of the non-profits that With Purpose donates to, and they are now focusing their efforts on the RACE for Children Act. RACE updates the Pediatric Cancer Research Equity Act (PREA) of 2003, which required pharmaceutical companies to test their adult drugs in children if their cancer was in the same organ. PREA was a great idea, but pediatric cancers don’t often originate in the same parts of the body as adult cancers, so not a single PREA study has been conducted for pediatric cancer. However, as researchers now develop drugs based on molecular targets, they have recognized that adult and childhood cancers can share the same targets. For instance, an ALK inhibitor that treats adults with lung cancer also treats kids with neuroblastoma. RACE modernizes PREA to reflect our current scientific understanding of cancer, providing the FDA with the authority to require any new cancer drug to be studied in pediatric cancers for which the molecular target of the cancer drug is relevant. RACE also provides that cancer drugs with orphan designations would no longer be exempt from PREA requirements.
RACE was introduced to Congress on February 27th. If it is not passed this summer, we will have to wait 5 years to reintroduce it. During that time, an estimated 78,900 kids will be diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. alone. Click here to fill out a form letter that automatically sends to your representative and senators. The time to act is now.
WPCS Vice President & Event Planning Team Leader 2015-2017