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TULSA WORLD: Chasing cures for children

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Tahlequah, June 18, 2017 | comments

Tulsa World Editorial

As parents of five wonderful kids, my wife and I want our children to have attributes that make them good people and we want them to have limitless opportunities. I think all parents do. We all want our kids to make good choices, earn good grades in school, work hard to achieve their goals, and most importantly — live long, healthy lives.

Tragically, there are too many parents who don’t get the chance to see their kids live out the hopes they have for them, especially when it comes to living a long, healthy life. Each year, there are more than 15,000 cases of childhood cancer across the nation. Nationwide, cancer is the second leading cause of death in children ages 1 to 14, falling just behind accidents.

Last spring in Oklahoma, Gary and Mariah McAlpin of Tahlequah lost their 2-year-old son, Kai, to T-Cell leukemia, a pediatric cancer. Kai’s parents referred to Kai as “Warrior Kai” because he fought cancer each day with a courage and persistence unlike any other. Cancer knows no boundaries, and it affects children in Oklahoma’s communities at the same alarming rates that it does other children across the country.


Currently, there are over 900 drugs in development to treat cancer in adults, while only a handful of drugs are being developed to fight cancer in children. I believe we can and should do more to save the lives of the vulnerable children who have childhood cancers of any kind. That’s why I’m working in Congress to pass the RACE for Children Act to make cancer treatments more accessible for pediatric cancer patients, and their parents.

The RACE for Children Act can help deliver lifesaving treatments for pediatric cancer patients by updating the Pediatric Research Equity Act. That law requires all drug manufacturers to test the safety and effectiveness of a new drug in a pediatric population, before widely applying the drug to children during cancer treatment.

Under current law, drug companies aren’t required to test cancer treatment drugs for pediatric patients. This leaves oncology doctors to decide on their own how much and how often to administer a drug to childhood cancer patients.


The RACE for Children Act gives the FDA the authority to require a Pediatric Research Equity Act study for adult drugs under development so that a toxicity and dosage level for children can be determined before prescribing a dosage too toxic or too strong for children. By requiring a study, we can determine if the positive effects of lifesaving cancer drugs for adults can translate into lifesaving drugs for children. Most important, requesting a study ensures these adult drugs are safe and effective for use in children.

In Warrior Kai’s place, his parents continue to carry on his mission to raise awareness and wage the battle against childhood cancers. As a parent and a member of Congress, it’s my responsibility to make sure that kids still fighting cancer have access to the cancer treatments that could save their lives. I’d want another parent in my shoes to do the same thing. We need the RACE for Children Act so that cancer-fighting kids like Kai — and their parents — can live to fight another day.

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