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New Law Represents Breakthrough For Child Cancer Sufferers

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) - Most child patients don't have access to clinical trials for cancer drugs. It's a situation Sen. Michael Bennet set out to fix, and a law signed by the president last Friday is helping his vision become a reality.

Carver, a 2-year-old Coloradan battling cancer, is currently in remission thanks to an experimental drug.

(credit: CBS)

"It's just amazing what the research can do and trial drugs can do to make the future better for other kids," his mother told CBS4 on Tuesday at Children's Hospital Colorado in Aurora.

Bennet, a Democrat and Colorado's senior senator, wants more child patients to benefit from more options like Carver did.

The new law he is calling the Race for Children Act requires pharmaceutical companies to test innovative new therapies for pediatric cancer at the same time they're testing them for adults, something that often doesn't happen now because childhood cancer remains rare.

Michael Bennet
Sen. Michael Bennet meets with a patient. (credit: CBS)

Only four new drugs have been approved for pediatric cancer in nearly 40 years while 200 have been for adults.

"That meant kids continued to receive older treatments, some from even the 1960s, in this era of precision medicine … even when newer and better treatments were available. That made no sense," Bennet said.

Dr. Lia Gore, head of the cancer center at Children's Hospital, said that up until now the only thing worse than telling a parent their kid has cancer has been telling them there's a drug that can cure it, but that it's only approved for adults.

"(Now) we really have the capacity to say 'There is a drug out there that might help your child and your child can get access to it.' That's huge," she said.

"This, we hope, will launch us into really a new generation of how we think about giving kids access to these drugs."

About 360 kids each year are diagnosed with cancer at Children's Hospital Colorado. The good news is about 85 percent of those cancers are curable. But for the other 15 percent, this law could truly save lives.

Bennet says families, and even kids, who have since died from cancer fought for years to see that the bill got passed.

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