January 05, 2023

Childhood Cancer STAR Reauthorization Act Signed into Law

Van Hollen, Reed, Capito, and Murkowski led effort to advance childhood cancer research, bolster work to identify and track incidence of childhood cancer, and enhance the quality of life for childhood cancer survivors

In an effort to help thousands of children who undergo cancer treatment each year, support the pediatric cancer community, and find new cures and effective treatments, President Biden today signed into law the Childhood Cancer STAR Reauthorization Act of 2022 (S. 4120), legislation led in the U.S. Senate by Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) along with 35 additional co-sponsors. The Senators’ bill reauthorizes the Childhood Cancer STAR Act, the most comprehensive childhood cancer bill ever passed by Congress, for another five years. The original bill was initially introduced in the House by then-Congressman Van Hollen; it was later passed in 2018.

Through the fiscal year 2023 omnibus government funding legislation, Senator Van Hollen fought successfully to fund the STAR Program at its fully authorized level of $30 million, in addition to fully funding the Childhood Cancer Data Initiative at $50 million. The omnibus funding legislation was signed into law by President Biden last week.

The STAR Act helps advance pediatric cancer research and child-focused cancer treatments, while also improving childhood cancer surveillance and providing resources for survivors and those impacted by childhood cancer. Since being signed into law the original STAR Act has helped deliver over $150 million to fund promising childhood cancer research and assist patients and families battling cancer.

“We want a future where no child has to fight for their life in a battle with cancer. That’s why we authored and passed the Childhood Cancer STAR Act to bolster childhood cancer research, and why we fought to further build on its progress through this reauthorization of funds. This important bill will support continued advances in cancer research to deliver better treatments and lifesaving cures, many of which are being developed at Maryland’s NIH and NCI. President Biden’s signing of this bill into law is another step forward in the fight against childhood cancer,” said Senator Van Hollen.

There are over one hundred different subtypes of childhood cancers. Most new cancer diagnoses in children are for leukemia (28.1%) and brain/CNS cancers (26.5%), while malignant epithelial neoplasms and melanomas (23.3%) and brain/CNS cancers (21.9%) are top cancers for adolescents, according to Children’s Cancer Cause. 

Childhood cancer research has progressed in recent years, but after accidents, cancer is still the second leading cause of death in children ages 1 to 14, according to the American Cancer Society. Health experts estimate that nearly 10,500 children in the United States under the age of 15 will be diagnosed with cancer in 2022.

As a longtime champion of solutions to tackle childhood cancer, last Spring, the Senator met with President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and a bipartisan group of Congressional lawmakers to discuss the future of fighting cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases in the United States. The Senator later joined President Biden to reignite the Cancer Moonshot and establish a new agency, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, or ARPA-H, to better prevent, detect, and diagnose cancer to save lives.

U.S. Representatives Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), and Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) co-authored companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access, and Research (STAR) Reauthorization Act of 2022 (S. 4120) will:

  • Expand Opportunities for Childhood Cancer Research: Due to the relatively small population of children with cancer and the geographic distance between these children, researching childhood cancer can be challenging. As such, the Childhood Cancer STAR Act reauthorizes and expands existing efforts at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to collect biospecimens for childhood cancer patients enrolled in NCI-sponsored clinical trials to collect and maintain relevant clinical, biological, and demographic information on all children, adolescents, and young adults with cancer. 
  • Improve Childhood Cancer Surveillance:Building upon previous efforts, this bill authorizes grants to state cancer registries to identify and track incidences of child, adolescent, and young adult cancer. This funding will be used to identify and train reporters of childhood cancer cases, secure infrastructure to ensure early reporting and capture of child cancer incidences, and support the collection of cases into a national childhood cancer registry.
  • Help Improve Quality of Life Opportunities for Childhood Cancer Survivors: Unfortunately, even after beating cancer, as many as two-thirds of survivors suffer from late effects of their disease or treatment, including secondary cancers and organ damage. This legislation will enhance research on the late effects of childhood cancers, improve collaboration among providers so that doctors are better able to care for this population as they age, and establish a new pilot program to begin to explore innovative models of care for childhood cancer survivors. 
  • Ensure Pediatric Expertise at the National Institutes of Health (NIH): Requires the inclusion of at least one expert in pediatric oncology on the National Cancer Advisory Board and will improve childhood health reporting requirements to include pediatric cancer.