Wrapping Up My Day In Washington DC

To say today has been a whirlwind would be an understatement!

I spent the day on Capitol Hill, invited by the folks at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) to come with them to the 2019 American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)/Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI) Day. It’s basically one big day of lobbying lawmakers for more money for cancer research (sorry for all the acronyms!).

That’s UPMC’s Cyndy Patton, left.

I came along as kind of the “face” of cancer research and the difference it makes. The day started with a breakfast at the Rayburn House Office Building where I got a chance to tell lawmakers the story of how I’m beating HPV-related throat cancer.

Click here to watch and listen


Producer Patrick O’Connor and I were honored to be invited on this trip.

Why am I so passionate about cancer research?

15 years ago, the only way doctors would have been able to save my life would have been to remove about a third of my tongue and a lot of my jaw

. I would have lost pretty much any chance of a normal life, and my TV and radio career would have been toast. Thanks to research that didn’t happen.

With more research, 15 years from now, maybe the next guy will be cured with a pill or a shot

, instead of the 7 weeks of chemotherapy and radiation I had to go through. Don’t forget, I was part of an immunotherapy trial which could be the next big thing in cancer treatment.

Who knows?

Maybe someday we prevent anyone from ever getting cancer.

Meeting with Rep. Conor Lamb, D-PA 17th.

While the experts talked science, I talked about how cancer research saved my life to lawmakers who control the money to pay for more of it. Watch:

The AACR and AACI want Congress to increase funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to a total of 41.6 billion next fiscal year, and the National Cancer Institute by $6.5 billion for what they described as “continued, real growth in cancer research above inflation for medical research.”

Let’s be blunt.

If Congress doesn’t fund more cancer research, labs shut down and people die.

“You can’t translate into medicine what you don’t know,” explained Dr. Patty Opresko, a cancer researcher at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. So you have to know how cancer works in order to treat it, even cure it, and we can’t count on “big pharma” alone to do that research. “Through NIH funding I can collaborate with scientists from around the world. If I was working for a pharmaceutical company I would view that other person as my competitor.”

In other words, curing and preventing cancer shouldn’t be political. Not in the lab. Not in the halls of Congress. Let’s hope our lawmakers were listening.

Above the UPMC/Hillman Cancer Center delegation (L-to-R): my oncologist Dr. Dan Zandberg; media relations manager Cyndy Patton; Chad Ellis, Deputy Director, Research Administration; Cancer researcher Dr. Patty Opresko, Dr. Leisha Emens, co-leader Immunology/Immunotherapy Program; me; Dr. Ryan Yuhas, Federal Government Relations Director; Patrick O’Connor, Sparkt.

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