Pediatric cancer patients join push for new NJ research fund
With the help of some kids who’ve been fighting cancer, a state lawmaker is renewing a bid to add an option to New Jersey income tax forms allowing people to make voluntary contributions to a new pediatric cancer research fund.
The bill – S1538/A894 – has been around since 2013 and only gotten one committee approval to date, last year in the Senate. But Assemblyman Anthony Bucco, R-Morris, said he is renewing conversations about the bill with legislative leaders to get it passed by January.
Bucco said that each year in the United States, more than 15,000 children age 19 or younger are diagnosed with cancer. In New Jersey between 2001 and 2014, nearly 6,300 pediatric cancer cases were recorded.
“Each one of these numbers represent a unique life,” said Bucco, who himself survived cancer that was diagnosed at age 8. “A first day of school, a baseball game, a home run, a prom, a college acceptance letter.”
Bucco said such a fund would pay for projects focused on the causes of pediatric cancer, prevention, education, screening and treatment.
“There have been advancements in medication and in treatment and in dealing with cancer,” Bucco said. “But those advancements and those treatments don’t just happen. They have to be funded, and there needs to be investment.
“What used to years ago perhaps be a death sentence is now curable,” Bucco said. “But that’s only occurred because the federal and state governments have made investments in the research that’s necessary to get us to this point.”
Jamie Bloyd of the American Childhood Cancer Organization said her native Kentucky created a similar income-tax checkoff, which she advocated for after her son was diagnosed with cancer in 2014. But few states have such funds specifically for pediatric cancer.
“So we’re here to change that and overcome a national disparity between adult and childhood cancer research,” Bloyd said.
Bucco and Bloyd were joined by some little lobbyists at the Statehouse Wednesday.
Fourth-grade student Will DeGregorio, of Cranford, who was diagnosed at age 3 with cancer of the adrenal gland, said pediatric cancer incidence rates are higher than the United States average in 17 of New Jersey’s 21 counties.
“In the past two decades, only three new drugs have been approved by the FDA specifically to treat childhood cancer, as compared to 194 for adult cancers,” DeGregorio said.
Fourth-grader Grace Eline, of Long Hill, has completed treatment for a brain tumor and become an advocate for research, even visiting the White House and sitting next to First Lady Melania Trump as she was mentioned by President Donald Trump during the State of the Union.
“I feel good to represent such an important cause, and I think that this money will hopefully help us find a cure,” Eline said.
“Childhood cancer is only 4 percent of the overall cancer research, but I think children are worth more than 4 percent,” Eline said. “So I hope this money will help us.”
“I don’t know how you say no to this group,” Bucco said.
State income tax returns already include a section to encourage charitable contributions, typically generating around $700,000 a year in donations cumulatively.
Five funds are listed on the returns themselves: the Endangered Wildlife Fund, the Children’s Trust Fund, the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Fund, the Breast Cancer Research Fund and the U.S.S. New Jersey Educational Museum Fund.
There is also space for donating to up to three additional funds out of 28 listed in the tax form’s instructions. Three of those 28 are cancer-related.
Five of the 28 are new this year: the Autism Programs Fund, the Boy Scouts Councils in New Jersey Fund, the NJ Memorials to War Veterans Maintenance Fund, the Jersey Fresh Program Fund and the NJ World War II Veterans’ Memorial Fund.