Cancer will not wait for COVID-19 to go away. And blood cancer patients can’t wait either. In fact, they need support now, more than ever. Because of dedicated volunteers and partners like United Food & Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), LLS is still able to carry out our lifesaving work in communities across the country, even amidst a global pandemic.
UFCW is one of North America’s largest labor organizations with more than 1.3 million members and has been a powerful voice for LLS since the partnership began in 1982. UFCW has raised more than $94 million for LLS’s goal to find cures and ensure access to treatments for blood cancer patients.
Led by the members of UFCW, Labor Against Cancer is a movement to end the devastation of cancer through fundraising drives among members, empowering them to band together for the good of others in the communities where they work and live.
“Labor Against Cancer not only reflects our union family’s growing commitment to the communities we live and work in, but to the cause of finding a cure for blood cancers,” said Marc Perrone, UFCW International President. “Whether you are a union member or not, we are determined to do our part to ensure that no one fighting cancer will struggle alone. Our partnership is a testament to our members and what can be accomplished when we all unite together.”
Some promising news to kick off Blood Cancer Awareness Month – on September 1, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new oral maintenance treatment for certain adult patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
CC-486 (Onureg®) is now approved for the continued treatment of adult patients with AML who achieved first complete remission (CR) or CR with incomplete blood count recovery (Cri) following intensive induction chemotherapy and who are not able to undergo intensive curative therapy, such as hematopoietic stem cell transplant.
CC-486 is a new oral formulation of azacitidine, an existing therapy that is administered via infusion or injected subcutaneously at a clinic or hospital. This approval establishes an important new maintenance treatment for AML patients in remission that can be taken once daily as a pill.
The approval is based on data from the QUAZAR AML-001 study, which showed that the therapy resulted in a statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvement in overall survival of nearly 10 months, compared to placebo.
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) helped laid the foundation for this advance, supporting early proof-of-concept work through our research grants portfolio. We continue to lead the charge against AML through our groundbreaking Beat AML Master Clinical Trial – the first collaborative precision medicine clinical trial in a blood cancer – and our investment in the most cutting-edge AML research around the globe, which you can learn more about here.
LLS helped advance 55 of the 65 blood cancer treatment options approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration since 2017.
430,000 people – it’s a huge number. It’s the population of Minneapolis. Nine straight days of sell-out crowds at Yankee Stadium. Nearly the entire enrollment of the Southeastern Conference. And it’s the number of people who, in the last six weeks, have become newly eligible for Medicaid, thanks to successful ballot initiatives this summer in Oklahoma and Missouri. LLS, our staff, and our volunteers are proud to have played a role in this major win for patients.
Those victories couldn’t have come at a more important time, with patients navigating both COVID-19, which directly threatens their health, and the recession, which threatens their ability to obtain insurance and afford healthcare. Medicaid is a critical lifeline for low-income cancer patients, and we know that millions of Americans have lost their health insurance during the recession. Expanding Medicaid helps ensure low-income families and individuals can access healthcare.
In both Oklahoma and Missouri, our Office of Public Policy mobilized advocates through emails, texts and social media, urging them to vote for Medicaid expansion and pointing them toward information on how to register to vote and cast their ballots. LLS also worked closely with other patient organizations as part of a coalition, highlighting how Medicaid expansion would support patients in their time of need.
LLS continues its advocacy work on behalf of patients at the federal level as well. Recently, Senate Republicans introduced their latest COVID-19 relief bill, and House Democrats introduced theirs in May. As you’ve likely seen, relief talks have come to a standstill. While the future of supplemental unemployment benefits, which ended in July, is in the spotlight, LLS’s policy priorities are focused on other issues impacting patients directly.
We’re urging lawmakers to:
Provide additional funding for Medicaid, which many cancer patients depend on
Create an open enrollment period on HealthCare.gov, allowing anyone who wants to buy health insurance to purchase it right now
End surprise medical bills – which can discourage people from getting medical treatment and cause financial devastation
Provide federal subsidies for COBRA coverage, allowing those who lost their jobs amid the recession to continue to afford health insurance
Extend paid leave for workers to reduce the spread of COVID-19
LLS led the drafting of a recent letter to Congressional leaders on behalf of nearly 30 patient organizations that elaborates on each of these needs. Additionally, LLS signed onto a statement with other nonprofits and patient organizations, calling for programs in the next federal COVID-19 package that will address the financial needs of nonprofits so they can keep serving their communities.
So far, our network of online volunteers has shared more than 12,000 letters with Congress urging lawmakers to take important steps to protect the health and safety of blood cancer patients. We’re in an unprecedented time. That’s why LLS’s Office of Public Policy – experts in lobbying, public policy, advocacy and communications – continues to work to ensure our country is doing everything possible to protect blood cancer patients.
Want to raise your voice for patients? Sign up to be an advocate today.