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President signs The Henrietta Lacks Enhancing Cancer Research Act

President Trump on Jan. 5 signed into law legislation aimed at improving access to clinical trials for communities of color and decreasing health disparities. 

The Henrietta Lacks Enhancing Cancer Research Act works to increase access and remove barriers to participation in federally sponsored cancer clinical trials among communities that are traditionally underrepresented. It directs the federal government to study policies that impact diverse participation in federally sponsored cancer clinical trials nationwide and recommend potential policy changes that would reduce barriers and make it easier for patients from diverse backgrounds to enroll in clinical trials.

The legislation is named after Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman from Maryland who died from cervical cancer in 1951, and whose cells were taken without her knowledge or consent during her treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital. They have been used to develop some of modern medicine’s most important breakthroughs, including the development of the polio vaccine and treatments for cancer, HIV/AIDS, and Parkinson’s disease. 

Lacks’ grandson, Alfred Lacks Carter, shared a guest blog on his grandmother’s legacy on ACS CAN’s Cancer CANdor blog on fightcancer.org

Advancing the legislation was one of the legislative asks during the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s (ACS CAN) National Leadership Summit and Lobby Day in September and an important part of ACS CAN’s work to reduce health disparities and ensure that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat and survive cancer. 

In a press statement, ACS CAN President Lisa A. Lacasse said, “ACS CAN is honored to have had the chance to work with Congress and the Lacks Family on this bill . . . We cannot achieve our mission of a world with less cancer until we reduce the burden of this disease across all communities.”

For more information about ACS CAN’s advocacy work to reduce health disparities and create health equity, visit www.fightcancer.org/healthdisparities.


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