Advocates push for childhood cancer research funds
Chris King, holding his three-year-old daughter Cami in his arms, talked about how lucky his family is. “Things are looking up,” he said, as he stood in front of Saint Ephrem Catholic Church in Dyker Heights on Wednesday.
Little Cami, who was at this moment squirming in her father’s arms, had recently undergone a successful bone marrow transplant to treat her leukemia. “A bone marrow donor was found. She had the transplant and now she’s on the road to recovery,” King said.
King added that he wants other families with children battling cancer to have the same opportunity to get good news. He and Cami were two of the dozens of people who attended a press conference in front of the church held by US Rep. Michael Grimm and leaders of the Francesco Loccisano Memorial Foundation. The foundation was founded by Camille Loccisano, whose son Francesco “Frankie” Loccisano died in 2007 at age 17 of cancer. Frankie was a student at Xaverian High School, a Catholic school for boys in Bay Ridge, when he died.
The organizers said they wanted to hold the press conference to raise awareness of the need to increase funding into research for cures for pediatric cancers and to emphasize the importance of helping families coping with the heartbreak of pediatric cancer.
Loccisano called on congress to pass the Caroline Pryce Walker Conquer Childhood Cancer Reauthorization Act, a bill that would expand research into childhood cancers and identify avenues to expand the development of drugs specifically aimed at treating childhood cancers. The legislation would also identify and track incidents of childhood cancer across the country to determine if there are patterns.
Grimm (R-C-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Staten Island), who noted that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, said he would co-sponsor the bill. “Frankie realized that sometimes you need a helping hand,” Grimm said, calling the bill “good, common sense legislation.”
In the war on cancer, “the stakes have never been higher,” Grimm said.
A large group of children attended the press conference with their parents. Looking at the kids standing behind him, Grimm said it’s vital that congress act now. “We have to do everything we can. Children are our future. The next president of the United States could be standing right here,” he said.
The site for the press conference was chosen because Frankie Loccisano attended church at St. Ephrem, his mother said. “My son was diagnosed at age 14. Yesterday, he would have been 23,” she said, noting that his birthday was the day before.
“We need to stop cancer. Children are really suffering,” Loccisano said, adding that kids have had to undergo amputations and other invasive procedures during cancer treatment. “They lose their limbs. They lose their eyesight. We need less invasive treatments,” she said. “With research, we can cure the children,” she added.
The Loccisano Foundation offers assistance to families whose children have cancer.
There is a disparity in the amount of funding for cancer research for adults and children, according to Grimm, who said there is a lot more money spent on researching cures for cancers that strike adults than there is for cancers that strike children.
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