Friday, February 26, 2016

Childhood Cancer Research Measure Passes First of Many Votes

A proposed amendment to the State Constitution setting aside funds for childhood cancer research passed the House Rules Committee February 17, by a vote of 8-2. The funds would come from Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, or TSET, earnings. 

House Joint Resolution 1045, if approved by the state Legislature and a vote of the people, would require the TSET board to set aside annually at least $1 million for pediatric cancer research. 

An amendment by state Rep. Jason Nelson, author of HJR 1045, increasing the set-aside from five percent to the greater of $1 million or 10 percent of what the board already grants for medical research was adopted unanimously.

Nelson said it was necessary to increase the amount of funds to ensure minimum adequate funding will be available to support the level of research anticipated.

“I increased the amount of money that will be made available after visiting with the chairman of the leading childhood cancer research organization in North America,” Nelson said. “It was clear that five percent of the current research funding level supported by TSET would not be enough to fund a project capable of the kind of high level research expected. I was told that a minimum investment of $1 million would be necessary. That happens to be about 10 percent of the earnings set aside by TSET last year for medical research.”

Nelson added a provision addressing a concern raised by TSET that the new set-aside could impact its existing funding commitments and struck language that would have allowed funds to be spent on research to improve access and continuity of educational services for children receiving cancer treatment. Nelson said the TSET board is already investing a significant amount of money on education related initiatives. He said focusing the limited funds on medical research made more sense.

The resolution must be approved by the House of Representatives in the next two weeks. 

House Joint Resolution 1045 was filed by Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Todd Thomsen, R-Ada, in January.

Related: Childhood Cancer Research Funding Amendment Proposed

Monday, February 15, 2016

Hearing Set for Resolution; Supporters Asked to Call, Email

The Oklahoma Childhood Cancer Research Amendment, HJR 1045, has been scheduled for hearing in the House Rules Committee this Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016, at 10:30 a.m., at the Capitol in Room 512A. 

Supporters of HJR 1045 are encouraged to contact members of the committee before the hearing to express your support and share your story. 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Childhood Cancer Research Proposal Merits Consideration

From The Oklahoman opinion page today:

"Childhood cancer research
Several proposed constitutional amendments await consideration in the Legislature, including one to require that at least 5 percent of earnings from the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust that are now directed to medical research be used for childhood cancer research. That measure is authored by Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, who understands this issue more than most. At age 8, Nelson's daughter Grace was diagnosed with an advanced stage Wilms' tumor, a rare type of kidney cancer that primarily affects children. Grace successfully completed treatment in September. Nelson said TSET funding for child cancer research could enable Oklahoma researchers to also draw additional funding from outside the state, augmenting the positive impact. We've criticized prior proposals that diverted tobacco settlement money from the TSET fund for nonhealth needs. In contrast, Nelson's plan would use state health funding for health needs, and deserves serious consideration."

KFOR story about 3 year old Brantley Phillips

KFOR Headline: "Town helps 3-year-old cancer patient celebrate last day of treatment"

“I would lay in bed at night and cry and beg God to give me his cancer and take it from him, take his pain away,” said Amanda Phillips, his mother.  “We felt people’s prayers. I mean, you could physically feel people praying for us.”

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Childhood Cancer Research Funding Amendment Proposed

A proposed constitutional amendment has been filed at the State Capitol that would set aside funds for childhood cancer research from earnings from the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust or TSET

House Joint Resolution 1045 was filed by Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Todd Thomsen, R-Ada, in January. As introduced, the measure would require TSET to make available a minimum of five percent of the earnings it directs to medical research for childhood cancer research. 

Rep. Nelson said TSET has grown and matured since its creation in 2000 and the medical research supported by the Endowment has grown and broadened as well.

“Oklahoma is well positioned to be an important partner in the fight against childhood cancer and in the search for better, less toxic treatments,” Nelson said. “There is still a lot of work to be done to investigate the causes and improve the cures for childhood cancer.  I’ve been told by experts that the modest investment this amendment would provide is sufficient to support meaningful research right here in Oklahoma— the type of important, high-quality research that has the potential to draw additional funding from outside the state.” 

Nelson also said that using a small fraction of TSET earnings to fund childhood cancer research is consistent with the constitutional mission of the endowment. He added that the caliber of research that could result from this investment would complement the high-level cancer research TSET supports at the Stephenson Cancer Center at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center. 

Rep. Thomsen believes voters will support the amendment when they learn how devastating childhood cancer is and that Oklahoma can help.

“Many people don’t know that cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children,” Thomsen said. “Too many children still do not survive cancer or the treatments and those that do often suffer life-long complications from the treatment. Oklahoma can be a part of changing this narrative.”

Nelson said he already plans to change HJR 1045 in committee to increase the amount set aside for childhood cancer research from five to ten percent or $1 million annually, whichever is greater.

HJR 1045 will direct funding to research projects that will address one or more of the following areas: improving the treatment of childhood cancer, enhancing the provision of childhood cancer treatment services within the state to reduce the need for children to seek treatment outside the state, improving access and continuity to educational services for children who receive cancer treatment, and improving or eliminating the late effects of treatment for childhood cancer.

TSET currently has assets of more than $1 billion. According to the TSET 2015 Annual Report, it provided $10,223,133 in research grants last year, approximately 20 percent of its available earnings that year.  Had the provisions of HJR 1045 been in place in 2015, approximately $511,000 would have been made available for pediatric cancer research last year.

TSET is a constitutional public endowment. HJR 1045 is a proposed amendment to the constitutional charter of TSET which was established by a vote of the people. If HJR 1045 passes the Legislature this spring, voters will decide the issue in the General Election this November.

Each year, TSET receives part of the annual payment made by tobacco companies to the State pursuant to the Master Settlement Agreement with the tobacco industry.

Nelson said, that in the next few weeks, he plans to introduce a separate resolution detailing the reasons additional resources are needed for childhood cancer research that will address the assumption by some that childhood cancer is a largely solved problem.

HJR 1045 has been assigned to the House Rules Committee, where Nelson serves as Vice Chairman, and is expected to be heard by the end of February. For more information about HJR 1045, contact Rep. Nelson here