Good morning. As everyone knows, cancer can be the cruelest of fates—it strikes nearly every family. It struck mine; I lost my mother to cancer.
Losses like these are the reasons why tens of thousands of Americans are coming together today on the National Mall in Washington, DC, with one common purpose: to focus our entire Nation's attention on cancer. Gathering today are patients and survivors, families and friends, doctors, and Americans from all walks of life. The Vice President, who's been a real leader in our administration's struggle against cancer, will join their ranks and will speak about the specific steps we're taking to win the fight.
This morning I want to talk to you about our overall vision of cancer care and research as we approach the 21st century. This is a time of striking progress, stunning breakthroughs. With unyielding speed, scientists are mapping the very blueprint of human life, and expectations of the human genome project are being exceeded by the day. We are closing in on the genetic causes of breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer. New tools for screening and diagnosis are returning to many patients the promise of a long and healthy life. It's no wonder scientists say we are turning the corner in the fight against cancer.
For 6 years now, our administration has made a top priority of conquering this terrible disease. We've helped cancer patients to keep health coverage when they changed jobs. We've accelerated the approval of cancer drugs while maintaining safe standards. We've increased funding for cancer research and, as part of our balanced budget, strengthened Medicare to make the screening, prevention, and detection of cancer more available and more affordable.
Still, we know that we must never stop searching for the best means of prevention, the most accurate diagnostic tools, the most effective and humane treatments, and someday soon, a cure. To that end, there are several steps we must take.
First, to build on our remarkable progress, I proposed an unprecedented, multiyear increase in funding for cancer research. As studies proceed, we must remember that patients, as much as scientists, have a critical perspective to add to any research program. That's why I'm announcing that all Federal cancer research programs will, by next year, fully integrate patients and advocates into the process of setting research priorities.
Next, as we continue to unravel the genetic secrets of cancer, we must apply that knowledge to the detection of the disease. I am therefore issuing a challenge to the scientific community to develop, by the year 2000, new diagnostic techniques for every major kind of cancer so we catch it at its earliest and often most treatable stage.
Also, we should give more patients access to cutting-edge clinical trials so they and researchers can get faster results. That's why I'm directing the National Cancer Institute to speed development of national clinical trials systems— a simple, accessible resource for health care providers and patients across our Nation. I'm also urging Congress to pass my proposal to cover the cost of those trials for Medicare beneficiaries who need them most.
Finally, we are fighting against the leading cause of preventable cancer by doing everything we can to stop children from smoking. America needs a Congress with the courage to finish the job and pass comprehensive tobacco legislation.
New technological tools, new networks of information, new research priorities—all are part of our overall approach to health care that puts the patient first. On this day, as Americans from all walks of life and all parts of our Nation renew our national fight against cancer, we do well to remember that we are doing more than curing a disease. We are curing the ills that disease may cause: the stigmas, the myths, the barriers to quality care. The concerned citizens on The Mall today show that we are overcoming those barriers, one by one, and at the same time building a stronger and healthier America.
Thank you for listening.