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Providing for Consideration of Conference Report on H.R. 4310, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Unknown


Ms. JACKSON LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I too believe in military preparedness, coming from a State like Texas, where the population of men and women who have served or are serving in the United States military is renowned and appreciated.

As I look at the tourists who walk through the Halls, I wonder which of those young people will take an oath and join the United States military. And so when I see raises for the troops, it pleases, I think, all of us.

I'm concerned about the Afghanistan timeline. I had hoped that it could be expedited. I certainly do commend the Iron Dome because we saw it work with respect to Israel. I question, however, the drones that may have collateral damage.

But I do think it's important that this bill does, in fact, make a commitment to protecting the women and children in Afghanistan, responds to the issues dealing with sexual assault against military personnel, and particularly women, and is strong on Iran sanctions.

But I rise today as well because I think when we talk about people, and we talk about the men and women of the United States military, we talk about their health. And yesterday, in the Rules Committee I raised this point and I raise it again.

I'm going to support this bill because I think it'll make a leap of faith and commitment to finding the cause of triple negative breast cancer. I mentioned yesterday in the Rules Committee that triple negative breast cancer cells are usually of a higher grade and size, onset at a younger age, more aggressive and more likely to metastasize.

In fact, the survival rate for breast cancer, but on triple negative, people are diagnosed and they die in months, maybe a year, such as my constituent, Yvonne Williams, a wonderful health professional who left a husband and two children.

Or maybe the young lady who stopped me when I was walking in the Race for the Cure and said, my mother, a Hispanic woman, got triple negative breast cancer. We did everything we could, and she died within months.

Apart from surgery, the only relief is cytotoxic chemotherapy, its only available treatment. Targeted molecular treatments, while being investigated, are not accepted treatment for this disease.

As I speak today, there are women who may be listening, or others who realize that either their loved one or they may be diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, and they understand the impact. Whether they are Caucasian or Asian or Hispanic or African American, this disease has not been able to be treated like breast cancers in the other stages.

So I offered an amendment that the House accepted. I think it is an important amendment because what it spoke to is that we need to pinpoint and focus in on what is the cause of this disease. And it called for the triple negative breast cancer patients to be identified earlier in the progression of their disease and to develop targets on molecular and biomolecular issues.

But through that amendment, I must say, although I wanted the specific language, the House was able to hold its position.


Ms. JACKSON LEE of Texas. The House was able to hold its position. And on title VII, section 737, I want to say thank you. There is a long amendment that includes my amendment and specifically speaks to having a report that will have recommendations for changes to policy, a law that could improve the prevention, early detection, awareness and treatment of breast cancer among the Members of the Armed Forces.

I would ask the Defense Department that when you look at treatment and research, you must include the triple negative breast cancer. That is, as well, an attack on your personnel in the United States military. If we care about our soldiers, our men and women in all of the branches who serve us, we'll care about their health, and we will include that research.

I thank the conferees for moving forward on something that is so near and dear to the families of those who live, but certainly of those of the families who have died.

Mr. Speaker, I am here today in support of language from my Amendment, Number 91 to H.R. 4310 ``National Defense Authorization Act,'' which would direct the Department of Defense Office of Health to work in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health to identify specific genetic and molecular targets and biomarkers for Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC).

In addition, my amendment was intended to result in information useful in biomarker selection, drug discovery, and clinical trials design that will enable both TNBC patients to be identified earlier in the progression of their disease and develop multiple targeted therapies for the disease.

Unfortunately, my language was not included in the Senate Amendment but I have read language in the Joint Manager's Statement and the Conference Report does provide for a study.

The language reads, ``Study on incidence of breast cancer among members of the Armed Forces serving on active duty,'' and is included in Section 737.

I stand up for all women today who have been victims and really for those who might so that we can look into prevention, cure, and eradication of breast cancer.

Triple negative breast cancer is a specific strain of breast cancer for which no targeted treatment is available. The American Cancer Society calls this particular strain of breast cancer ``an aggressive subtype associated with lower survival rates.''

I offer this amendment in hopes that through a coordinated effort, DOD and NIH can develop a targeted treatment for the triple negative breast cancer strain.

Breast cancers with specific, targeted treatment methods, such as hormone and gene based strains, have higher survival rates than the triple negative subtype, highlighting the need for a targeted treatment.

Today, breast cancer accounts for 1 in 4 cancer diagnoses among women in this country. It is also the most commonly diagnosed cancer among African American women. The American Cancer society estimates that in 2011, more than 26,000 African American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and another 6,000 will die from the disease.

Between 2002 and 2007, African American women suffered a 39 percent higher death rate from breast cancer than other groups.

African American women are also 12 percent less likely to survive five years after a breast cancer diagnosis. One reason for this disparity is that African American women are disproportionally affected by triple negative breast cancer.

More than 30 percent of all breast cancer diagnoses in African American are of the triple negative variety. Black women are far more susceptible to this dangerous subtype than white or Hispanic women.


Mr. Speaker, last year, I spoke at a funeral for Yolanda Williams, one of my constituents in the 18th Congressional District of Texas. Yolanda died from her battle with triple negative breast cancer. Like many other women who are diagnosed with this aggressive strain, she did not respond to treatment. Yolanda, wife and mother of two daughters, was only 44 years old.

This strain of breast cancer is not only more aggressive, it is also harder to detect, and more likely to recur than other types. Because triple negative breast cancer is difficult to detect, it often metastasizes to other parts of the body before diagnosis. 70 percent of women with metastatic triple negative breast cancer do not live more than five years after being diagnosed.

Research institutions all over the Nation have started to focus on this dangerous strain of breast cancer. In my home City of Houston, Baylor College of Medicine has its best and brightest minds working tirelessly to develop a targeted treatment for the triple negative breast cancer subtype. It is time for the Department of Defense to follow that example and commit additional funding to study the triple negative strain.

I had urged my colleagues to join me in protecting women across the Nation from this deadly form of breast cancer by supporting my amendment, and enough of them did so that language was sent to the Senate addressing triple negative breast cancer; and we live to fight another day for more precise language dedicated to a most-pernicious form of breast cancer, while being appreciative of language in the final conference report addressing breast cancer among those most at risk, on active duty fighting, for our country.


Breast cancer accounts for 1 in 4 cancer diagnoses among women in this country.

The survival rate for breast cancer has increased to 90 percent for White women but only 78 percent for African American Women.

African American women are more likely to be diagnosed with larger tumors and more advanced stages of breast cancer.

Triple-negative breast cancer, TNBC, is a term used to describe breast cancers whose cells do not have estrogen receptors and progesterone receptors, and do not have an excess of the HER2 protein on their cell membrane of tumor cells.

Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) cells are usually of a higher grade and size; onset at a younger age; more aggressive; more likely to metastasize.

TNBC also referred to as basal-like (BL) due to their resemblance to basal layer of epithelial cells.

There is not a formal detailed classification of system of the subtypes of these cells.

TNBC is in fact a heterogeneous group of cancers with varying differences in prognosis and survival rate between various subtypes. This has led to a lot of confusion amongst both physicians and patients.

Apart from surgery, cytotoxic chemotherapy is the only available treatment; targeted molecular treatments while being investigated are not accepted treatment.

Between 10-17 percent of female breast cancer patients have the triple negative subtype.

Triple-negative breast cancer most commonly affect African American women, followed by Hispanic women.

African American women have prevalence TNBC of 26 percent vs 16 percent in non-African-Americans women.

TNBC usually affects women under 50 years of age.

African American women have a prevalence of premenopausal breast cancer of 26 percent vs 16 percent for non-African-American Women.

Women with TNBC have 3 times the risk of death than women with the most common type of breast cancer.

Women with TNBC are more likely to have distance metastases in the brain and lung and more common subtypes of breast cancer.


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