Fighting Mesothelioma and Other Cancer Unites Congress

The politically divided U.S. Congress agrees on practically nothing — except mesothelioma.

Now, in a rare show of bipartisan unity, members from both parties are currently lining up to help others find a mesothelioma cure. They want to make sure victims of the asbestos cancer get more support.

This coming together of customary foes is being spurred by the recently formed Congressional Caucus on Deadliest Cancers.

The deadliest cancers are defined as those that put half their victims in the grave within five years after the battle for survival begins.

Cancers that meet this definition include liver and pancreatic cancer, but also cancers of the lung. Mesothelioma, of course, is a menacingly lethal cancer of the lung — as well as a cancer of the abdomen and sometimes the heart and sex organs.

Raising Mesothelioma Awareness

The Congressional Caucus on Deadliest Cancers was launched by two Democrats and two Republicans in the House of Representatives.

The Democrats are Reps. Anna Eshoo and Henry Waxman, both of California.  The two Republicans are Rep. Dave Reichert of Washington and Rep. Leonard Lance of New Jersey.

According to Reichert, the caucus will raise awareness about mesothelioma and the other deadly cancers. As well, the caucus will press for more research and better outcomes, he said.

The caucus also will use its influence to promote prevention, earlier diagnosis, and more choices for where and how patients receive treatment, Reichert indicated.

Further, Reichert said the caucus will give patients and survivors the ability to tap into a support network of lawmakers and others concerned about the deadliest cancers.

The four organizers of the caucus got the ball rolling by sending a “Dear Colleague” letter on May 8 to the full membership of the House and Senate.

In that letter they spelled out why doing something about the deadliest cancers is so important.

Reichert said this is a personal matter to him: his own mother died from one of the deadliest cancers and he wants to make sure no other child ever again loses a parent in this manner.

“I understand all too well how critical it is that we support research for new medicines and treatments for these diseases, and perhaps, one day, we will discover the cure,” he said.

His GOP colleague Lance said he looks forward to the caucus serving as a bridge to connect patients and researchers. “Cancer is a diagnosis no person wants to hear and a battle no one should face alone,” said Lance in branding the deadly cancers as a scourge and blight.

“The Congressional Caucus on Deadliest Cancers will give advocates and those working for cures a forum to discuss one of the great public health challenges of our time, the rise of deadly cancers,” he added.

Mesothelioma Put On Notice

Eschoo said she hoped the caucus could put a real crimp in the ability of deadly cancers to continue taking so many American lives. She urged those now battling for their lives to hang on. “Congress is coming to their aid,” said Eshoo.

Another purpose behind writing the May 8 letter was to invite members of the House and Senate to join the caucus.

As of the end of July, the caucus had increased four-fold to 20 members. Added from California were Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Adam Schiff, both Democrats. Added from New Jersey was Democrat Rep. Rush Holt.

The other joiners were: Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ); Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT); Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA); Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA); Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO); Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH); Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY); Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH); Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA): Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-PA); Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI); and Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX).