Lawmakers advance Casey DeSantis-backed cancer research changes, add more funding
Casey DeSantis.

'It's a positive development for the state and a top priority for the First Lady, so I am happy to see that.'

First Lady Casey DeSantis’ push to continue to bolster the state’s effort to combat cancer appears poised to get added funding and new ground rules on how those dollars should be spent.

Budget negotiators earlier this week agreed to direct an additional $40 million toward the Florida Cancer Innovation Fund. The Senate also passed a bill (SB 7072) championed by DeSantis, a cancer survivor.

Sponsored by Sen. Gayle Harrell, SB 7072 essentially codifies into law the “Cancer Connect Collaborative” first announced by DeSantis about a year ago.

The legislation establishes a six-member collaborative and directs it to review all Florida Cancer Innovation Grant applications and to advise the Department of Health (DOH) on how the grants should be awarded. The state Surgeon General would serve as Chair of the six-member collaborative but would not be a voting member. The other five members would be appointed by the Governor, the House Speaker and the Senate President.

The Governor has three appointments, one of which must be used to select a Florida resident and cancer survivor. The other appointees must have experience treating cancer, researching cancer, developing cancer treatments or managing a cancer hospital.

The Florida Cancer Innovation Fund was established by the Legislature last year and appropriated $20 million to fund innovative research in cancer care and treatment at Florida-based institutions. The First Lady and Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the first innovation grant recipients earlier this month.

It is one of four programs the Legislature funds to support cancer research. The other three programs are the William G. “Bill” Bankhead Jr. and David Coley Cancer Research Program (the Bankhead-Coley program), the Live Like Bella Initiative-Pediatric Cancer Research Program, and the Casey DeSantis Cancer Research Program, formerly known as the Florida Consortium of National Cancer Institute Centers Program.

Legislators renamed the program after the First Lady after she announced in October 2021 that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She was 41 years old at the time and her three children were under the age of 5.

Following her diagnosis, the Governor pushed lawmakers to increase cancer research funding by $37 million and included the request in his Fiscal Year 2022-23 budget. Lawmakers agreed, increasing the funding to $100 million and renaming the fund in the First Lady’s honor. Lawmakers added another $27.5 million to the program the following year.

In all, the Legislature in Fiscal Year 2023-24 appropriated $160.5 million to the four cancer programs, with the majority of the funds ($127.5 million) directed to the Casey DeSantis Cancer Research Program. It was Initially established in 2014 to enhance the quality and competitiveness of cancer care in Florida, expand biomedical research strategy and capitalize on potential educational opportunities available to students.

Initially, only Florida-based cancer centers recognized by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers, cancer centers, and cancer centers working toward achieving NCI designation qualified for the money. That included H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, the University of Florida (UF) Health Shands Cancer Hospital Cancer Center and the University of Miami (UM) Sylvester Cancer Center.

But the Legislature last year struck the requirement that the facility be Florida-based, which allowed Mayo Clinic Cancer Center in Jacksonville to qualify for the funds, the distribution of which is established by a formula in statutes.

While SB 7072 doesn’t alter the distribution of the $127.5 million in funding, the bill does direct the six-member Cancer Connect Collaborative to develop a long-range comprehensive plan for the program.

Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Sam Garrison, the House health care budget chief, said he was “happy” with the agreement House and Senate health care conferees reached earlier this week to add $40 million to the Florida Cancer Innovation Fund.

“It’s a positive development for the state and a top priority for the First Lady so I am happy to see that,” Garrison said.

Christine Jordan Sexton

Tallahassee-based health care reporter who focuses on health care policy and the politics behind it. Medicaid, health insurance, workers’ compensation, and business and professional regulation are just a few of the things that keep me busy.


  • Dont Say FLA

    February 29, 2024 at 3:09 pm

    If I am understanding this correctly, these grants will be awarded to whichever churches pray the hardest. Is that quite right? It sounds as silly as praying for meteorology.

  • Linwood Wright

    February 29, 2024 at 3:10 pm

    Casey DeSantis didn’t get breast cancer.

    Breast cancer got Casey DeSantis.

    • Ron Forrest Ron

      February 29, 2024 at 3:29 pm

      That makes me want to go get one of those cancer ribbons.

      Poor, poor cancer.

      Is that the dog’s name, too? Cancer the dog?

  • This picture

    February 29, 2024 at 3:36 pm

    Can y’all stop running this picture of Mrs Rhonda? A friend told me she already got enough zip lock bags of her own barf secretly cluttering up all the governors mansion’s closets. She certainly doesn’t need to keep seeing this picture over and over and over.

  • Julia

    February 29, 2024 at 4:22 pm

  • Julia

    February 29, 2024 at 4:24 pm

    Earning $29,000. When you’re ready to give it some serious thought, start with some of the most respectable businesses that provide real work-from-home opportunities. In order to locate the ideal remote employment, ensure that the positions you apply for are affiliated with cz-04 reputable businesses.

    Look at this…………………………….

  • Tom

    March 1, 2024 at 7:10 am

    “The state Surgeon General would serve as Chair of the six-member collaborative but would not be a voting member.”

    Makes me think somebody might be on the way out – maybe all his nonsense has finally caught up with him.

    • Dont Say FLA

      March 1, 2024 at 12:12 pm

      I bet you’re right. I only wonder whether will Rhonda be foolish enough to let him go. Rhonda is not good at seeing traps but he’s great at springing them on his own foot.

      If the Rhonda Campaign coming to its inevitable fate of an early suspension means the services of an anti-vax Covid denier are no longer required, that would mean the State of Florida was effectively paying a Rhonda campaign staffer with every paycheck deposited into Joseph Ladapo’s payroll account.

      But I reckon Ladapo wasn’t the only one. Rhonda got paid too, so that cat is already out of the bag and running amok all over the state, so Ladapo might as well go. IOW, nothing new to see there with State of Florida paying Rhonda campaign staff.


    March 9, 2024 at 3:30 am


Comments are closed.


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