Wexton Leads Introduction of Bipartisan, Bicameral Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act 2.0
Washington, May 16, 2023
Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Representative Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act 2.0 along with Representatives Tom Cole (R-OK), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), and Debbie Dingell (D-MI), as well as Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Jerry Moran (R-KS). The legislation would reauthorize and increase funding for the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) Gabriella Miller Kids First Pediatric Research Program (Kids First), which has supported lifesaving research of treatments for childhood cancer.
The bill is named in honor of Gabriella Miller, a Virginia-10 resident who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and passed away in 2013 at age 10. Gabriella’s advocacy for lawmakers to “stop talking, start doing,” led to the creation of the Ten-Year Pediatric Research Initiative Fund which authorized $12.6 million in annual funds for childhood disease research. The Fund expires at the end of this Fiscal Year.
“It is unacceptable that less than 8% of the federal cancer research funding goes towards childhood cancer while tens of thousands of children are diagnosed each year in the U.S. – and cancer is taking more children’s lives than any other disease right now,” said Rep. Wexton. “I’m proud to lead this bipartisan, bicameral legislation to build on the remarkable work of the Kids First research programs and boost funding for treatments and cures that can save kids’ lives. It’s been an honor to work with Ellyn Miller, a constituent and Gabriella’s mother, as well as my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to deliver real change so no family has to go through what the Millers have faced.”
“My daughter Gabriella called upon our elected officials to ‘stop talking and start doing’ two weeks before she died of brain cancer at the age of 10,” said Ellyn Miller, Founder and President of the Smashing Walnuts Foundation. “Today, she would be 20; living a full and wonderful life. I want to say to Gabriella, we have been doing! We have been making progress! But many more families have suffered and MORE needs to be done! So I am grateful to Congresswoman Wexton and Members across the aisle who are DOING something wonderful for children who suffer from cancer and other debilitating diseases. Building off the great success of the ‘Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act’, Rep. Wexton’s bipartisan legislation brings additional funding to continue the work done to date by NIH for much-needed research for childhood cancers and diseases. My heartfelt thanks to all the Members of Congress who have joined together to support the search for better treatments and cures for our children.”
“I have long been a proponent of medical research especially for illnesses and diseases that affect our most vulnerable,” said Rep. Cole. “The Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act 2.0 would expand funding for research on childhood diseases. By doing this, we can hopefully uncover links between childhood cancer and birth defects and save the lives of children. I am proud to be a co-sponsor of this important piece of legislation.”
“It is an honor to join Representatives Wexton, Cole, and Bilirakis in introducing the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act 2.0. We have a moral responsibility to ensure pediatric disease research remains a top priority, not only to honor those who have lost their battles, but to protect the children of future generations. This research will save lives,” said Rep. Dingell.
“Pediatric cancer remains the number one disease that leads to the death of American children. While survival rates have improved for some types of pediatric cancers, thousands of children are lost to cancer each year and many more encounter life threatening complications related to harsh chemotherapies. Children have significantly fewer treatment options than adults and oftentimes must rely on treatment regimens developed for adults because pediatric-specific treatments simply do not exist for many pediatric cancers and rare diseases. The Gabriella Miller Kids First Pediatric Research Program at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is working to develop a large-scale data resource to help researchers uncover new insights into the biology of childhood cancer and structural birth defects, including the discovery of shared genetic pathways between these disorders. This foundational research is critical for facilitating a better understanding of pediatric cancers, and holds the promise for the development of better treatments and possible cures. As a longtime advocate for children and rare disease patients, I am proud to join my colleagues in pushing for the continuation of this crucial research,” said Rep. Bilirakis.
U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) introduced a bipartisan Senate version of the legislation as well.
“Gabriella Miller was a Virginian and a passionate activist, and it’s my mission to honor her by working to make sure pediatric disease research is a priority in Congress,” said Senator Kaine. “I’m proud to join together with colleagues from both sides of the aisle in introducing this legislation, which would provide a crucial source of funding for the pediatric cancer and disease research that can support treatments and save lives in the years to come.”
“Cancer is the leading cause of death by disease among children, and we must better understand this horrific disease,” said Senator Moran. “By directing new resources to NIH to research cures and treatments for cancer in children, we can help save lives and honor the memory of Gabriella Miller.”
In 2014, the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act was signed into law by President Obama, establishing the Ten-Year Pediatric Research Initiative Fund and authorizing $12.6 million in annual funds for childhood disease research through Fiscal Year 2023. Since then, Kids First has taken tremendous steps towards understanding childhood cancer, such as establishing the Gabriella Kids Resource Center – a comprehensive data resource for research and patient communities meant to advance discoveries.
Cancer continues to kill more children in the United States than any other disease. Over 15,000 children a year are diagnosed with cancer, with that number tragically having gradually risen in recent decades. Pediatric cancers often differ from adults in the type, how they spread, and how it is treated, and many children do not respond well to conventional adult treatments, which frequently cause long term health issues and disabilities even in circumstances where the cancer is successfully cured. Yet while children face special hurdles when it comes to fighting cancer, less than 8% of current government funding for cancer is geared specifically towards developing treatments and cures for childhood cancer and other rare diseases.
The Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act 2.0 is cosponsored by Representatives Don Bacon (R-NE), Mike Bost (R-IL), Kathy Castor (D-FL), Judy Chu (D-CA), Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA), Byron Donalds (R-FL), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Andy Kim (D-NJ), Michael McCaul (R-TX), Jennifer McLellan (D-VA), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Bill Posey (R-FL), Mike Quigley (D-IL), John R. Rutherford (R-FL), Melanie Stansbury (D-NM), Marilyn Strickland (D-WA), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Susan Wild (D-PA), and Nikema Williams (D-GA).
The text of the bill can be found here.