Specialty research is the key to fighting disease

Seventeen years ago, my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. The disease had already devastated our family a decade earlier, and — even though my sister has been in remission for more than ten years — will probably rear its ugly head again somewhere down the road. My story is not unique. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone in the United States who doesn’t have a story of a friend or relative’s struggle with cancer. Due to this sad reality, we must ask our policymakers to stand behind the development and research of new specialty medicines. These treatments not only provide opportunity to those who once had little hope, but also offer tremendous economic benefits.

In recent decades, those diagnosed with cancer have lived significantly longer lives, all thanks to new, life-changing medicines. The mortality rate of those diagnosed with cancer has decreased by 22 percent since 1991, and a dramatic increase in five-year survival rates has occurred in that same time span. As 80 percent of these life expectancy increases can be attributed to modernizing treatments, we must support the continuance of these trends and urge policymakers to allow for greater innovation.

I participate in The Sister Study, a longitudinal research project aimed at examining well siblings of women diagnosed with breast cancer in order to identify any potential causes of the illness and, eventually, help to develop a cure. Specialty research and therapies, like those The Sister Study sought to develop, are an important part of combatting cancer and many other diseases. We need to continue to invest in the research and development of these treatments in order to save lives and reduce out-of-control healthcare spending.

Specialty medicines offer an alternative to expensive and time-consuming hospital stays, offering benefits to not only patients, but also our healthcare system.

It was estimated that lowering cancer’s mortality rate by 10 percent would equate to a savings of $4.4 trillion dollars. Additionally, new medications offer options that allow patients to avoid expensive transplants that can cost upwards of $500,000 and require costly follow-up care.

Cancer affects nearly every American in some way, and it is our responsibility as a society to try to reduce its impact and reach for a cure. Maintaining important investment in research and development is one way to accomplish this, and one I support wholeheartedly.