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ACS News Minute: ACS leads effort to improve cancer care in Africa

ACS and the Clinton Health Access Initiative are collaborating to bring less expensive and higher quality cancer medications to sub-Saharan Africa.

Thanks to groundbreaking market access agreements with Pfizer Inc. and Cipla Inc., access to 16 essential cancer treatment medications will be expanded in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania.

In this latest ACS News Minute, Meg O'Brien, PhD, managing director, Global Cancer Treatment, explains more. Watch now!





















  • ACS CAN: New youth tobacco data highlights need for continued CDC tobacco prevention and control funding

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)  on June 15 released data from its National Youth Tobacco Survey that found tobacco use among youth in grades 6-12 has decreased in recent years.

    In 2016, 3.9 million middle school and high school students used tobacco products, down from 4.7 million students in 2015. The data also showed youth electronic cigarette use declined from 5.3 percent to 4.3 percent for middle school students, and from 16 percent to 11.3 percent for high school students. This is the first decline in e-cigarette use since 2011, yet the devices remain the most commonly used tobacco product among this age group.

    A statement about the survey results from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), follows:

    “It’s great news to see a decrease in both conventional and electronic cigarette use among our nation’s youth. This progress demonstrates the critical importance of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health (OSH), which leads federal efforts to reduce tobacco-related death and disease, including essential youth prevention programs.

    “While the data is promising, it remains that nearly 4 million youth used at least one tobacco product last year. Proposals in Congress to eliminate OSH and its cost-effective public health programs, including state prevention programs, tobacco quit lines and the Tips from Former Smokers media campaign, could jeopardize future progress reducing tobacco’s burden.

    “We urge lawmakers to maintain current funding for OSH in their FY 18 budget deliberations. OSH’s work is critical to reducing smoking rates, saving lives from tobacco use, and ending our nation’s tobacco epidemic.”

    Tobacco prevention strategies credited for declining smoking rates

    The report notes that tobacco prevention and control strategies at the national, state, and local levels likely contributed to the reduction in tobacco use, particularly for e-cigarettes. 

    “Far too many young people are still using tobacco products, so we must continue to prioritize proven strategies to protect our youth from this preventable health risk,” said CDC Acting Director Anne Schuchat, MD.

    “While these latest numbers are encouraging, it is critical that we work to ensure this downward trend continues over the long term across all tobacco products,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD. “The FDA has invested heavily in compelling, science-based education campaigns, such as ‘The Real Cost,’ that have already helped prevent nearly 350,000 kids from smoking cigarettes, and continues to enforce important youth access restrictions. We plan to build on these vital efforts to reduce tobacco-related disease and death.”

    Current smokers were defined as students having used a tobacco product in the past 30 days.

    Below are other highlights from the report:

    •  Among current tobacco users in 2016, 47.2 percent of high school students and 42.4 percent of middle school students used two or more tobacco products.
    • The report found that 20.2 percent of high school students and 7.2 percent of middle school students reported current use of any tobacco product. 
    • E-cigarettes remained the most commonly used tobacco product among youth for the third consecutive year, used by 11.3 percent of high school and 4.3 percent of middle school students. 
    • Although the data reflect a decline during 2015-2016, current use of any tobacco product did not change significantly during 2011–2016, because of the sharp increases in e-cigarettes and hookah during 2011–2014.
    • Among all high school students in 2016, the most commonly used products after e-cigarettes were: cigarettes (8.0 percent), cigars (7.7 percent), smokeless tobacco (5.8 percent), hookah (4.8 percent), pipe tobacco (1.4 percent), and bidis (0.5 percent).
    • Among all middle school students in 2016, the most commonly used products after e-cigarettes were: cigarettes (2.2 percent), cigars (2.2 percent), smokeless tobacco (2.2 percent), hookah (2.0 percent), pipe tobacco (0.7 percent), and bidis (0.3 percent).
    • Among non-Hispanic white and Hispanic high school students, e-cigarettes were the most commonly used tobacco product. Among non-Hispanic black high school students, cigars were most commonly used.
    • Cigarette use was higher among non-Hispanic whites than among non-Hispanic blacks; smokeless tobacco use was higher among non-Hispanic whites than other races.

  • Society and Clinton Health Access Initiative collaborate with Pfizer and Cipla to increase access to cancer treatment in Africa

    ACS and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) today announced two separate groundbreaking agreements with Pfizer Inc. and Cipla Inc. to expand access to 16 essential cancer treatment medications, including chemotherapies, in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania.

    An estimated 44% of all cancer cases that occur in sub-Saharan Africa each year occur in these six countries. The agreements will set competitive prices on the medicines, thus allowing African governments to realize substantial savings while improving the quality of available treatment.  

    The collaboration is part of a broader effort led by ACS and supported by CHAI to improve the market environment for cancer care in Africa.  

    "For more than a hundred years, the American Cancer Society and our volunteers have led the fight for a world without cancer, and we're committed to making sure that the progress we've made in the United States is not limited to our borders," stated Gary M. Reedy, CEO of the American Cancer Society, in apress release.  "Every person with cancer deserves access to treatment, no matter where they live. Collaborating with companies like Pfizer and Cipla is a critical next step toward leveling the playing field for people with cancer and saving lives in this part of the world."

    Two of the barriers to improving cancer care in Africa have been limited access to treatments that have been used in higher-income countries for decades, and the proliferation of counterfeit cancer drugs sold at premium prices.

    Patients are almost twice as likely to die of cancer in sub-Saharan Africa than the U.S. The five-year survival rate for women with breast cancer in the U.S. is 90%, but in Uganda it's just 46%, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Cancer kills more people in the region than either malaria or tuberculosis. By 2030, WHO estimates that for every four deaths from HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, there will be three deaths from cancer.

    "The state of cancer treatment in Africa today is very reminiscent of the challenges faced when working to increase access to lifesaving antiretroviral therapy for HIV/AIDS over a decade ago," stated CHAI CEO Ira Magaziner. "While cancer treatments and the tools for early diagnosis are readily available in developed countries, market forces and other barriers have limited access in Africa. As was done for the HIV/AIDS crisis before it, this public-private collaboration will help revolutionize cancer treatment in sub-Saharan Africa and has the potential to save thousands of lives each year."

    To help develop and sustain the volume pricing structure announced today, ACS and CHAI are working with IBM Health Corps, a pro bono consulting program, to develop and deploy ChemoQuant, a chemotherapy forecasting software to help countries quantify their cancer medicine needs and plan budgets and procurement. Uganda is now beginning to use the software and five additional countries are expected to follow suit by year's end.

    "When the American Cancer Society approached us last year to help bring to life their ideas for fighting cancer in the world's most neglected areas, we knew this was the start of something powerful," said Jennifer Ryan Crozier, IBM's VP of Corporate Citizenship and president of IBM's International Foundation. "By bringing together IBM's expertise in cognitive computing, analytics, and software design expertise with the experience and vision of ACS, we have laid the foundation for transformational work in cancer care."

    The cancer burden is mounting in sub-Saharan Africa and deaths remain high due to late diagnosis and lack of treatment. In 2012, there were an estimated 626,000 new cases of cancer and 447,000 cancer deaths in the region. Deaths from cancer are expected to almost double by 2030 due to aging populations. Yet global funding for cancer prevention and treatment in lower-income countries is far lower than other diseases including HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis, amounting to less than 2% of global health spending. Facilitating access to high-quality, affordable chemotherapeutic agents is a critical step to improving cancer treatment, but many more issues need to be addressed, such as access to treatment facilities and workforce shortages. ACS and its partner organizations are committed to long- term strategies to address these barriers.

    The agreements are an important part of a larger strategy that ACS and CHAI are implementing with African health ministries to improve patient access to affordable, quality-approved oncology medicines and increase procurement capacity by governments. This includes:

    • Reducing reliance on middlemen and private distributors
    • Stabilizing prices
    • Rationalizing orders
    • Streamlining registration of products approved by a stringent regulatory authority
    • Promoting the entry of international suppliers with a range of quality-approved products

    Analysis of current procurement practices suggests that African governments could move to cost-competitive, quality-approved medicines while reducing current costs by more than half through effective implementation of these programs.

    The agreement with Pfizer includes the following medicines:

    • Carboplatin, Cisplatin, Docetaxel, Doxorubicin, Epirubicin, Fluorouracil, Gemcitabine, Leucovorin, Methotrexate, Oxaliplatin, Paclitaxel

    The agreement with Cipla includes the following medicines:

    • Anastrazole, Bleomycin, Capecitabine, Carboplatin, Cisplatin, Cytarabine, Oxaliplatin, Vinblastine

    These market access agreements were negotiated by CHAI, who received funding and technical assistance from ACS for these efforts. ACS and CHAI plan to continue working together to pursue additional market access collaborations to advance this ongoing effort.

    Our CEO Gary Reedy writes about this on Medium.com, a blogging platforrm. 


  • Chris Hansen's Monthly Advocacy Update

    ACCESS TO CARE

    Senate Wrestles with Health Care Legislation

    Leadership in the U.S. Senate is currently indicating they are looking to vote on a health care bill before the July 4 recess. Unlike the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate must wait for the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to score the legislation they want to bring to the floor to ensure that it complies with complex budget reconciliation targets. Proposed reductions to Medicaid funding remain a major sticking point, especially among the states that opted to expand access to Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

    Assuming a repeal bill passes the Senate by June 30, Republicans would have one month before the August recess to merge the House and Senate bills, which are expected to have major differences.

    ACS CAN is urging the Senate to preserve critical patient protections in the current law, including prohibiting medical underwriting, banning annual and lifetime caps on coverage, and guaranteeing access to essential health benefits regardless of where you live.

    Health coverage must be affordable both in premium and in total out-of-pocket costs. Income-based premium tax credits, cost-sharing reductions, and the Medicaid expansion work together to maximize the number of people who can obtain health coverage. A flat credit along with Medicaid cuts would significantly affect the ability of millions of patients to afford and access health insurance. It is the combination of these proposed changes to the current law that resulted in the CBO to conclude that the House passed bill would reduce the number of insured by an estimated 23 million people.

    Another important stakeholder in this debate are the nation's governors. Prior to scheduled calls between a select group of governors and Senate leadership this week, ACS CAN sent a letter to governors of both parties across the country detailing our concerns about proposals that would result in dramatically reducing Medicaid funding; reintroducing discrimination based on health history; waiving minimum essential benefits requirements; eliminating steady funding streams that subsidize affordable health coverage; and instituting continuous coverage requirements that could discriminate against those who cannot work due to illness or who have to take leave to care for a loved one.

    Activities in the states 

    • In response to ACS CAN's team of determined and persuasive volunteers in Mississippi, the state's entire congressional delegation has signed on to the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act. This legislation would eliminate surprise costs to seniors on Medicare who have a polyp removed during a routine colonoscopy. In addition to the full congressional delegation signing on as co-sponsors, Sen. Roger Wicker was the first Republican co-sponsor to sign on to the original bill when it was first introduced in the Senate. He did so at the request of his constituents on the ACS CAN Mississippi team.
    • Effective July 1, Nebraska's colorectal cancer screening program will provide funding for outreach and follow-up. ACS CAN advocates for initiatives aimed at increasing colorectal cancer screening rates.
    • On May 26, Gov. Brian Sandoval signed into law bills to expand the Nevada Cancer Drug Donation Program. The revised program will include all prescription drugs – except controlled substances – and authorize the substitution of biosimilars.
    • On May 23, Texas governor Greg Abbott, signed into law a bill that provides patient protections related to step therapy protocols for prescription medications. Step therapy practices begin medication for a medical condition with the most cost-effective drug therapy and progresses to costlier therapies only if necessary. The new law becomes effective September 1.

    CANCER RESEARCH, PREVENTION, AND EARLY DETECTION

    White House Budget Proposal Threatens Cancer Funding

    The White House submitted a detailed Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) budget proposal to Congress last month that would cut funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by nearly $7.2 billion (21 percent). This amount includes a proposed $1.2 billion (21 percent) cut to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and an $18 million (5 percent) reduction of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) cancer control programs. Additionally, the Office of Smoking and Health would be eliminated under a proposed consolidation of CDC chronic disease programs. Congress is now holding budget oversight hearings and we expect to see a FY18 budget begin to work its way through Congress later this month.

    ACS CAN continues to actively advocate for strong Congressional support for cancer research and prevention funding on various fronts. In addition to our direct lobbying, ACS CAN leads the One Voice Against Cancer (OVAC) coalition that held grassroots lobby days on June 5 and 6. ACS CAN is also mobilizing grassroots advocates to meet with their representatives when lawmakers return home for upcoming Congressional district work periods. Our broad traditional and social media strategy continues to both thank Congress for support for the recent increase in research funding and to call on members of Congress to prioritize NIH and NCI funding in FY18.

    Through our participation in United for Medical Research (UMR), ACS CAN is working to make the case that NIH funding is good for economic growth. UMR recently released a new report that estimates that FY16 NIH funding supported 380,000 jobs and $65 billion in economic activity across the country. The report also estimates the potential job losses under the proposed cut in the president's budget. 

    ACS CAN Supports Bill to Accelerate Childhood Cancer Drug Development

    On May 1 and 2, the Alliance for Childhood Cancer, of which the American Cancer Society and ACS CAN are members, held its sixth annual Action Day. During their meetings on Capitol Hill, more than 200 childhood cancer patients, survivors, and family members urged their members of Congress to cosponsor two bills to increase funding for childhood cancer research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Cancer Institute (NCI).

    The Research to Accelerate Cures and Equity (RACE) for Children Act is bipartisan legislation that ACS CAN endorsed in late March. The bill seeks to modify the Pediatric Research Equity Act (PREA), a law that was intended to increase the number of drugs available to treat pediatric illnesses. While PREA has been successful in driving pediatric drug development in other diseases, exemptions in the law have prevented it from ever applying to cancer drug development. The modifications proposed by the RACE for Children Act would ensure that the provisions of PREA apply to cancer drugs. 

    A separate bill, the Survivorship, Treatment, Access, and Research Act (STAR) would increase transparency of and expertise on pediatric cancer research at NIH, and explore the long-term side effects of childhood cancer and its treatments.

    Activities in the states 

    • The Arizona legislature approved a level funding appropriation of $1.37 million for the Arizona Well Woman HealthCheck Program to provide mammograms and Pap tests to uninsured women.
    • Final appropriations in Colorado included cancer, cardiovascular, and pulmonary disease grant funding of more than $19.8 million; tobacco education, prevention and cessation grant funding of more than $23.5 million; and breast and cervical cancer screening program funding via the Women's Wellness Connection of more than $4.6 million.
    • Minnesota governor Mark Dayton approved several appropriation measures for both new funding and continued funding for programs hard won in past sessions. They include: 
      • $35 million of continued full funding for the State Health Improvement Program, which provides grants to communities for tobacco and obesity prevention efforts;
      • $2 million in continued funding for Safe Routes to Schools;
      • $8 million in new funding for a University of Minnesota program to expand access to clinical trials; and
      • $250,000 in new funding for Good Food Access Fund to improve access to healthy food in underserved communities.

    Final appropriations in North Dakota included nearly $520,000 for colorectal cancer screening and $400,000 for the Women's Way breast and cervical cancer program.

    TOBACCO CONTROL

    House Bill Intends to Make Veterans Health Administration Smoke-Free

    On May 17, the House Veterans' Affairs Committee advanced legislation that would make Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facilities smoke-free. The bill (H.R. 1662) would prohibit the use of cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and other combustible tobacco products inside any VHA facility soon after it becomes law, and would prohibit smoking outside VHA facilities by 2022. ACS CAN along with 43 additional public health and medical groups signed a letter of support for the bill. The bill now awaits a vote on the House floor. 

    State & Local Advances

    • On June 1, Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin signed into law a $1.50 per pack cigarette price increase. This is a major public health victory which demonstrates that significant price increases on tobacco are possible regardless of a state's ruling party.

    Smoke-Free

    • More than 510,000 Americans will be protected by new or revised smoke-free ordinances in the following cities:
      • Laguna Beach and Windsor, California
      • Sandpoint, Idaho
      • Santa Fe, New Mexico
      • Arlington and Palmhurst, Texas 

    Tobacco-21

    • Los Gatos, California enacted a tobacco retail license ordinance that restricts the sale of all flavored tobacco—including menthol cigarettes—to adult-only retailers. The ordinance also prohibits tobacco sales to persons under the age of 21; bans sales in pharmacies; and blocks new retailers from locating within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, and playgrounds, or within 500 feet of another tobacco retailer.
    • On May 15, Excelsior Springs, Missouri passed a Tobacco-21 ordinance which went into effect immediately. 

    QUALITY OF LIFE

    State Activity

    • In accordance with legislation ACS CAN supported in 2015, Gov. Jerry Brown's revised budget reversed a decision by the California Department of Managed Health Care that would have delayed implementation of adult palliative care services in Medi-Cal.
    • ACS CAN teams led efforts in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and Nevada to pass measures to promote palliative care access. All four were signed into law in May and will improve quality of life for patients and families facing cancer and other serious illnesses. 

    GLOBAL HEALTH

    Global Health Agenda Prioritizes Cancer Control

    On May 30, at the 70th World Health Assembly (WHA) of the World Health Organization, health leaders from across the globe reaffirmed cancer control as a critical health and development priority by adopting "Cancer prevention and control in the context of an integrated approach," a new cancer resolution.This was the first time a cancer-specific agenda item had been discussed at the WHA since 2005. The resolution, co-sponsored by the U.S., is the culmination of more than a year's work by the Union of International Cancer Control (UICC), the American Cancer Society, ACS CAN and other supporters. It provides countries with updated and integrated guidance on health promotion and risk factor reduction, with emphasis on the tobacco control and anti-cancer vaccines. The Society and ACS CAN are continuing efforts to transform that commitment into increased resources and action to address cancer. Beyond the resolution, momentum continued to build around cancer and other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). Among the record 26 cancer-related events were discussions on cervical cancer, tobacco control, nutrition and obesity, adolescent health, financing for NCDs, health systems and universal health coverage.

    SPECIAL UPDATE

    ACS CAN Releases 2016 Advocacy Accomplishments Report

    The 2016 Advocacy Accomplishments report, "Advocates in Action: Impacting the Cancer Burden," is now available online at  acscan.org/accomplishments. This annual report highlights ACS CAN's legislative, policy, grassroots, regulatory, global health advocacy, media advocacy and judicial advocacy achievements. 




  • Annual meeting of cancer specialists wraps up today

    More than 30,000 cancer specialists from around the world have been meeting in Chicago since Friday at the 53rd annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). The event, which closes today, highlights the latest advances in clinical cancer research, including the latest findings from clinical trials.

    The theme of this year’s meeting is "Making a Difference in Cancer Care With You," emphasizing ASCO's role in improving the care of people who are at risk for cancer, who have cancer, or who have survived cancer.

    News out of this year's meeting include positive findings about breast cancer and pregnancy, the benefits of an online program to report symptoms, how one dose of radiation may help spine pain in cancer patients, and how therapy can tackle an overlooked and undertreated side effect of cancer: fear. Another study that has gotten a lot of media coverage involves Johnson & Johnson's cancer treatment Zytiga. Data released at the meeting shows it significantly cut the death risk for newly diagnosed, advanced prostate cancer patients. Read more about that here

    Get the latest consumer news from ASCO at CURE and WebMD. You can also find more news on Twitter using the hashtag #ASCO17.

  • ACS CAN urges governors to voice concerns about impact of AHCA on state cancer burden

    Proposed changes to the health care law in the American Health Care Act (AHCA) could reverse progress in the cancer fight and shift the economic burden for health care coverage to the states.

    Ahead of scheduled calls between a select group of governors and Senate leadership this week, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) sent a letter to state leaders detailing the organization's concerns about proposals to dramatically reduce Medicaid funding that would threaten safety nets for the nation's most vulnerable; allow medical underwriting that could reintroduce discrimination based on health history; waive minimum essential benefits requirements that guarantee coverage for cancer prevention and treatment; eliminate steady funding streams that subsidize affordable health coverage; and institute continuous coverage requirements that could discriminate against those who cannot work due to illness or who have to take leave to care for a loved one.

    In the letter, ACS CAN President Chris Hansen writes, "As passed by the House, AHCA could leave cancer patients and survivors - young, old and across all income ranges – unable to access or keep quality health insurance. The bill would create a state-by-state coverage patchwork in which individuals with pre-existing conditions could be charged more for their coverage in some states, with the strong likelihood that they would be priced out of the insurance market."

    While the proposed changes to the health care law purport to provide states greater flexibility, in reality reducing coverage requirements will lead to sicker, uninsurable residents and strain state budgets as governors are forced to pick up the tab.

    The letter goes on to note, "Recognizing that there are ways to make the current system more affordable and equitable for more Americans, ACS CAN has urged Senators to undertake a more deliberative consideration of health reform.  We believe it is possible to strengthen Medicaid and the individual market, and provide access to affordable coverage for all Americans, including those with serious and costly diseases like cancer."

    ACS CAN continues to urge lawmakers to find solutions that will ensure coverage is equal or better to what is available today. However, with the CBO projecting 23 million fewer Americans would be covered if the AHCA is enacted, including 14 million losing Medicaid coverage, the current approach is seriously flawed.

    The letter to governors concludes, "We place tremendous value on your leadership and commitment to providing your residents with access to quality, affordable and comprehensive health care coverage. Ensuring that cancer patients and survivors in your state have access to uninterrupted and meaningful health care coverage is critical in the effort to eliminate death and suffering from cancer."

    Read the full letter here.  


  • Society mourns the passing of Fredda Bryan

    It is with great sadness that we report the passing of staffer Fredda Bryan of Virginia, who just last month was awarded the Society's first Diversity Visionary Award for her pioneering work with the Community Health Advisor program, and her tireless efforts to combat health inequities and promote diversity.

    Our CEO Gary Reedy made the award presentation during an all Employee Engagement Group call on May 17. The award will be named for Fredda, and it will recognize contributions made by a Society staff member in promoting a diverse and inclusive workplace and going above and beyond in actively fighting cancer in underserved populations. 

    "Fredda cannot adequately be captured in words. She never lost her zeal for our mission despite her own long and arduous battle with cancer, said Tawana Thomas-Johnson, senior director, Inclusion Strategy. 

    By all counts, the former Healthy Systems staffer in the South Atlantic Division was an exceptional woman. She was a 22-year veteran of the Navy, and its first African-American female air traffic controller to advance to the rank of Senior Chief Petty Officer.

    It was her breast cancer diagnosis that first brought her to the American Cancer Society, and she was proud to say that she made use of ALL of our programs and services.

    She became a dedicated and incredibly hard-working volunteer, and then was hired to coordinate the African American Men's Health Forum in Hampton's Road, Virginia. She met with a little resistance from the community at first but, as expected, succeeded in mobilized the community around health issues and succeeded in raising screening rates.

    Her next role with the organization was as associate director for the Community Health Advisor Program, and she later became a supervisor. In 2014, when the Society started the Employee Engagement Group program, Fredda was one of the first employees to volunteer to be a co-lead, and not just for one, but two EEG's. Her knowledge and support were invaluable to both the Military Families and Veteran and African American and Black EEGs.

    Over the years Fredda, has been a great support to many of the Society's local and national external partnerships. Fredda (a Zeta herself) was a passionate supporter of the organizations relationship with Zeta Phi Beta, Inc. She attended local and national conferences, engaging fellow sorority members in the fight against cancer.  Zeta teams raised over $125,000 in 2016 alone through their participation in Relay For Life and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, and donated more than 3,500 new wigs since the launch of a wig drive in 2015.

    Fredda also was instrumental in growing and developing the partnership with the Eastern Area of The Links, Inc. She cultivated a strong relationship with the Portsmouth Chapter of The Links, Inc., which resulted in more than 25 trained Community Health Advisors, advocacy engagement, and mission support through Relay for Life. She helped lead the implementation of the Partnering for Life initiative in the Hampton Roads area, engaging African American churches with our mission and revenue activities.

    "I decided early on that I wasn't going to deal with breast cancer, but breast cancer would have to deal with me," she once said. "Being in the military taught me so many lessons, including adapting and overcoming obstacles, as well as what it means to work together with people who are like-minded and moving towards the same goal."

    Fredda said working for the American Cancer Society, which she credited with helping save her life, was an honor and a privilege. The privilege was all ours. 


  • Society loses an advocate whose public cancer journey endeared her to thousands

    ​Actress and colorectal cancer advocate Karen Walsh Rullman, 41, a guest on our Countdown to 2018 event at Hard Rock Cafe on March 1, has passed away after her two-year battle with cancer. 

    Karen was known for playing many roles on Broadway and in TV and film, but it was perhaps through her public cancer journey that Karen was best known. She invited family, friends, and fellow actors to join the "fun" at her chemotherapy sessions, transforming her bi-weekly treatments into hilarious photo shoots, like the one pictured here. The images are documented on her Instagram account, @kwrandthebigwin

    Her unique approach to treatment caught the attention of followers all over the world and nationwide media outlets, including the Huffington PostPlaybillDaily Mail, and Cosmopolitan. A video capturing most her journey was shared widely via Facebook.

    Karen was an ambassador for the 80% by 2018 campaign and appeared recently at the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable's annual meeting. At her personal urging, countless people fulfilled her request to be screened for colorectal cancer. Last October, the Eastern Division honored her with its Mother of the Year award. 

    Karen produced two successful Broadway concert and auction events for the American Cancer Society, in memory of her dear friend, actor James Rebhorn. Ironically, it was during production of the second event that Karen herself was diagnosed with inoperable Stage IV colon cancer, just one week after her 40th birthday. Karen continued with the benefit, raising thousands of dollars for cancer research just six weeks after receiving her own diagnosis.

    "Karen is the type of person with whom you felt an immediate connection. She had an openness, a willingness to share honestly, no matter how vulnerable she might feel," said Rich Wender, MD, our chief cancer control officer. "Whether it was discussing Broadway, our love for theatre (especially Hamilton), her joyous ability to turn chemotherapy sessions into movie depictions, or her remarkable, heartfelt comments at last year's NCCRT Annual meeting, Karen was as real and honest a person as anyone I've known. My time knowing Karen was far too short. I am tired of colon cancer taking our loved ones."

    Click these links to see Karen's theater and film credits. 


  • National Cancer Survivors Day is this Sunday, June 4

    There are nearly 15.5 million cancer survivors in the U.S. alone, each with their unique experiences and needs. On Sunday, June 4, thousands of people in communities across the country and around the world will honor cancer survivors and celebrate life on the 30th Annual National Cancer Survivors Day®.  According to the National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation, which organizes the annual event on the first Sunday in June, the awareness day will celebrate life after cancer, pay tribute to local cancer survivors, and bring attention to the ongoing challenges they still face. 

    The American Cancer Society offers many free resources and tools that can help, no matter where someone is in their cancer journey. Below are just a few, and you can find more resources for survivors at cancer.org/survivors.

    • Free cancer information 24/7, 365 days a year. Trained staff at our& National Cancer Information Center (NCIC) answer questions about diagnoses and treatments, identifies helpful local resources, and provides a sympathetic ear. NCIC is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year at 1-800-227-2345. Or, people can go to cancer.org to live chat.
    • Cancer Survivors NetworkSM. This online community for people with cancer and their families can be found at csn.cancer.org. There, people can connect with others in treatment, long-term survivors, or caregivers through our member search, discussion boards, chat rooms, and private Cancer Survivors Network email.
    • Springboard Beyond Cancer. This new online tool for cancer survivors was created by the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute. Patients and survivors can create personalized  Action Decks, collections of selected information to help them better communicate with caregivers and their care teams to manger their physical and emotional well-being.
    • Rides to treatment. The American Cancer Society Road To Recovery® program offers free rides to cancer patients who would otherwise have difficulty getting to their cancer-related appointments, thanks to volunteer drivers who donate their time and the use of their personal vehicles. Other transportation help may also be available.
    • Lodging during treatment. The American Cancer Society Hope Lodge® program provides a free, nurturing home away from home for cancer patients and their caregivers when they have to travel for treatment. In some areas where there isn't a Hope Lodge or the nearest one is full, the American Cancer Society's Hotel Partners Program lets patients and caregivers stay for free or at reduced rates in hotels close to where they get treatment.
    • Community support. American Cancer Society Relay For Life® events provide survivors with an opportunity to connect with others touched by cancer and take action for lifesaving change. Events hold special activities to celebrate survivors and remember loved ones lost. There's also a variety of entertainment and games. To find an event in your community, visit RelayForLife.org.

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