U.S. government passes law honoring legacy of Henrietta Lacks by increasing access to clinical trials

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Congress passed legislation aimed at improving access to clinical trials for communities of color and decreasing health disparities. The bill was signed by the president Jan. 5.

The Henrietta Lacks Enhancing Cancer Research Act works to increase access and remove barriers to participation in federally sponsored cancer clinical trials among communities that are traditionally underrepresented.

The bill is named after a Black woman who died from cervical cancer and whose cells, taken without her knowledge or consent during her treatment, have been used to develop some of modern medicine’s most important breakthroughs, including the development of the polio vaccine and treatments for cancer, HIV/AIDS and Parkinson’s disease.

“ACS CAN is pleased to see this important bill, which is aimed at doing just that, pass in the Senate. Henrietta Lacks’ cells have saved countless lives and with this bill, her legacy will continue to improve health outcomes and reduce health disparities for countless more,” American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network President Lisa Lacasse said in a statement.

The law directs the federal government to study policies that impact diverse participation in federally sponsored cancer clinical trials nationwide and recommend potential policy changes that would reduce barriers and make it easier for patients from diverse backgrounds to enroll in clinical trials.

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