Fifth Annual Pancreatic Cancer Advocacy Day
June 13 and 14, 2011   |   Washington, D.C.

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Pivotal Legislation Reintroduced
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A Message from the President and CEO

This month, our guest columnist is Lisa Niemi Swayze, the national spokesperson for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. After her husband, Patrick Swayze, succumbed to pancreatic cancer in 2009, Lisa Niemi became an impassioned crusader in the fight against the disease. On February 16, 2011, she joined Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ), President and CEO Julie Fleshman and other representatives of the organization at a press conference on Capitol Hill to announce the reintroduction of the Pancreatic Cancer Research & Education Act in Congress that day. (The bill's other lead sponsor, Rep. Anna Eshoo [D-CA], was unable to attend the event due to a last-minute emergency.)

At the press conference, a report prepared by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network was released to the media as well that analyzes the National Cancer Institute's 2009 research investment in pancreatic cancer. Entitled "Pancreatic cancer: A trickle of funding for a river of need," the report illustrates that pancreatic cancer receives less funding, fewer grants and less money per grant than the other top cancer killers.

Dear Pancreatic Cancer Action Network Friends:

February 16 was an exciting day for me and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network: I participated in a press conference on Capitol Hill to help reintroduce the groundbreaking Pancreatic Cancer Research & Education Act.

Other attendees at the "standing room only" event included Sen. Whitehouse (D-RI), Rep. Lance (R-NJ), Pancreatic Cancer Action Network President and CEO Julie Fleshman, board members Peter Kovler and Laurie MacCaskill, and 25 local supporters of the organization, who were all clad in eye-catching purple attire to show their support. National media covering the press conference included CNN, the Associated Press, Yahoo!, and the Wall Street Journal; local stations in both Los Angeles and New Jersey reported on the event as well.
From left, Lisa Niemi Swayze, Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) and Julie Fleshman confer on Capitol Hill.

During the conference, I shared my thoughts about what needs to happen to turn the tide and bring an end to this terrible disease. I let everyone know that we don't have "alumni", or survivors, fighting for our cause, as is the case with other forms of cancer. So it's up to all of us. And it’s time for pancreatic cancer to "move to the front of the line" to get a fair share of federal research funding. It was gratifying to see how receptive everyone was to what we had to say and how they appreciated of the sense of urgency surrounding our cause.

Later, we attended five meetings with various members of the U.S. House of Representatives who all sit on important committees that can help to move our bill forward. All of the members we met were engaged and receptive, so I think we are off to a good start.

As you may know, once it is enacted and fully funded, the Pancreatic Cancer Research & Education Act will ensure that the National Cancer Institute takes the necessary steps to address the astounding mortality rate for pancreatic cancer by developing a long-term, comprehensive strategic plan targeting the disease so patient outcomes will improve in the years to come.

For 40 years, the survival rate for pancreatic cancer has remained in the single digits – despite an increase in the incidence of the disease, despite the fact that it is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. and despite the fact that significant progress has been made in advancing treatments for other cancers. This must change.

Although we are enjoying considerable support right now, we still have a formidable battle ahead of us due to austere budgetary measures under consideration by Congress. I am glad to know the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network has focused and dedicated supporters like you who can urge their members of Congress to do the right thing.

If you have not yet done so, please click here to send a message to your Members of Congress and/or click here to register to become an advocate. Together, we really can know it, fight it and end it.


Lisa Niemi Swayze
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network National Spokesperson


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