The National Brain Tumor Society (NBTS) mourns the loss of an iconic and important ally in health care and cancer research funding. Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy, who passed away today at the age of 77, spent his decades on Capitol Hill advocating for improved health care and comprehensive cancer research.
"We have been blessed to have Senator Kennedy as a champion for numerous national healthcare policies benefiting millions of Americans in need," said NBTS Executive Director, N. Paul TonThat.
NBTS co-founder, Bonnie Feldman, remembers being with Kennedy at a Washington, DC gathering of brain tumor patients, survivors, and advocates in late 1997. "Ironically," says Feldman, "Senator Kennedy advised us to keep on doing what we were doing – rallying on the mall and knocking on the doors of our congressional leaders. He offered to be a ‘foot soldier in our fight against brain tumors.' Today, because of Senator Kennedy's courageous battle with the disease, the world is more aware of the devastating problems that brain tumors present. This, and the equally courageous way in which he lived his life, will inspire us to attain our dream of a world without brain tumors."
In early 2008, as Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, Sen. Kennedy announced his intention to introduce legislation encouraging a comprehensive approach to cancer research. In May 2008, just weeks later, he suffered a seizure and was subsequently diagnosed with a malignant glioma, an aggressive form of primary brain cancer. News media followed his journey from initial care at Massachusetts General Hospital to surgery at The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke University.
The Senator worked from home as he recuperated from his initial treatments, but with his support of Barack Obama's successful run for President and his continued Senate Committee leadership, he remained in close contact with his staff and colleagues. His returns to Capitol Hill for critical votes were met with great fanfare.
With the economic crisis that boiled over in late 2008 and intensive work on the economic stimulus package that Congress ultimately passed in early 2009, Sen. Kennedy saw an opportunity to invest in the economy and advance health options at once. Within the stimulus package, Sen. Kennedy believed that the remarkable $6 billion allocated to NIH would keep research in motion and feed the nation's growing biotechnology and pharmaceutical resources. In a statement, Sen. Kennedy said, "It's essential to invest in life science research to find the new medical breakthroughs that will keep Americans healthy and strengthen our dynamic biotechnology industry here in Massachusetts and across the nation."
He also saw more immediate opportunities in the health care system. In February 2009, Sen. Kennedy co-wrote a Wall Street Journal editorial with Montana Senator Max Baucus. "Some argue that repairing the health-care system now is impossible, given the urgency and high cost of ending the financial crisis," they wrote. "In truth, the two are inextricably intertwined: Solving the nation's health-care crisis is a fundamental part of healing our economy."
Citing a Rand Corporation study that indicated that Americans receive the recommended care for their conditions only half of the time, Senators Kennedy and Baucus had argued in their Wall Street Journal opinion piece that "[a] revitalized system should reward doctors and hospitals for providing effective, efficient care. Cutting-edge health-care technology, better coordination among a patient's various doctors, and efforts to improve care in rural and underserved areas can keep individual patients healthier and make the system work better as a whole."
Since brain tumors affect individuals of all ages, ethnicities, health histories, and political persuasions, the range of responses within the brain tumor community was equally diverse. Some saw Sen. Kennedy's fight against a brain tumor as one final noble battle of a long-standing advocate for health care reform. Others found themselves in a very sudden and very personal alliance with an ideological opponent. Many in the brain tumor community admired the Senator's and his family's forthrightness about this devastating diagnosis, simultaneously sympathizing with the Kennedy family's challenges and appreciating the wave of awareness that their experience brought to this under-recognized community.
National Brain Tumor Society is committed to continuing Senator Kennedy's lifelong efforts to effect just such changes for the brain tumor community, and so many others.
About the National Brain Tumor Society
- NBTS both affects and directs promising research through its grant programs. In 2008 alone, NBTS granted $4.5 million in research funding to leading brain tumor researchers across North America.
- Each month, NBTS empowers more than 1,000 brain tumor patients, survivors, and their caregivers through our Patient Services programs, along with our comprehensive website at www.braintumor.org, offering information about current standards of care and support to improve quality of life.
- NBTS is a national organization with activities and influence across the United States. Learn more about our nationwide activities at www.braintumorcommunity.org.
For more information about the prevalence and incidence of brain tumors, visit: www.cbtrus.org.
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