DeSantis signs trio of bills to boost cancer treatment and medical research

by | Jun 18, 2024

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed three health-related bills into law on Tuesday to enhance cancer treatment, advance biomarker testing, and support medical research in Florida.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a trio of health-related bills into law on Tuesday, aiming to enhance cancer treatment, advance biomarker testing, and support medical research across Florida.

The first piece of legislation, Senate Bill 7072, revises the Casey DeSantis Cancer Research Program by making cancer innovation grant funding available to healthcare providers and facilities that “demonstrate excellence” in patient-centered cancer treatment or research, the bill states. The measure also codifies the Cancer Connect Collaborative into law, establishing it as a council within the Department of Health (DOH). The program promotes innovative cancer care and research, requiring detailed reporting and auditing of funds allocated to National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers.

Beginning July 1, 2024, cancer centers must provide a line-item budget narrative, cap administrative expenses at 15 percent, and submit quarterly expenditure reports.

The Cancer Connect Collaborative, expanded by this legislation, intends to eliminate barriers between researchers, cancer facilities, and medical providers to improve data accessibility and streamline best practices. First Lady Casey DeSantis, who initiated the collaborative, emphasized its role in making innovative therapies accessible to all Floridians.

“I’m very humbled in this position as First Lady to be able to come out and lend my support to something that I know a lot of people are suffering with as we speak. And so that’s why this is very meaningful for our residents of Florida,” Casey DeSantis, a cancer survivor, said.

Senate Bill 1582, meanwhile, introduces changes to the Department of Health’s protocols and establishes the Andrew John Anderson Pediatric Rare Disease Grant Program. The program will provide competitive, peer-reviewed grants to advance research and find cures for rare pediatric diseases.

Under the bill’s purview, it permits universities and research institutes in Florida to apply for grants, requires the DOH to consult with the Rare Disease Advisory Council when awarding grants based on scientific merit, and prioritizes collaborative grant proposals that “foster cooperation among institutions and community practitioners.”

The bill additionally mandates standardized hearing screenings for newborns, infants, and toddlers to detect congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV) early and allows parents of newborns with sickle cell disease or traits to opt-out of the state registry.

Moreover, it increases the number of members on the Florida Cancer Control and Research Advisory Council from 15 to 16, adding a representative from the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville.

“I’m proud that the legislature has funded these priorities. I think it’s something that’s going to make a difference. It already has made a difference, but I think the best is yet to come,” said Gov. DeSantis.

House Bill 885 requires state group insurance plans and Medicaid to cover biomarker testing, essential for personalized medicine, particularly in cancer treatment. As the bill is written, coverage must be provided if there is medical and scientific evidence indicating clinical utility. The bill stipulates that such evidence includes a labeled indication for a test approved or cleared by the FDA, an indicated test for a drug approved by the FDA, a National Coverage Determination by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services or a Local Coverage Determination (LCD) by a Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC), or a nationally recognized clinical practice guideline developed by an independent organization or medical professional society with transparent methodology and a conflict of interest policy.


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