Gov. DeSantis touts cancer funding accomplishments, hints at future changes
Casey DeSantis.

The Governor said limiting $127.5M to National Cancer Institute-approved programs is too confining.

The Governor signed a trio of health care related bills related to cancer and rare diseases in Miami and hinted that he expects more changes to how the state funds cancer research in the future.

SB 7072, a health care bill that appeared late in the 2024 Session, was the center of a $127 million-plus health care industry tussle between the National Cancer Institute recognized programs in the state and other cancer providers.

The measure codified a “Cancer Connect Collaborative,” which was first announced by the Gov. Ron DeSantis administration in 2023. The Legislature did not, though, give the collaborative control over how the state allocates $127.5 million in recurring cancer research funds, named in honor of First Lady Casey DeSantis.

Those dollars only are distributed to Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center, the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, Moffitt Cancer Center and UF Health Cancer Center, all of which are recognized by the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Appearing at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital on Tuesday to sign the legislation, DeSantis said confining the funds to NCI-approved programs is too restrictive.

“We’re going to be working with the Legislature to try to maybe tweak the First Lady’s program so that’s something that will be available to more than just a handful of institutions,” DeSantis said.

NCI is the federal government’s principal agency for cancer research and training. Based on the type and breadth of research conducted, the NCI awards one of three designations: comprehensive cancer centers, focused on substantial transdisciplinary research that bridges all cancer-related research areas; cancer centers, focused on one research area, such as clinical, prevention, cancer control or population science research; or basic laboratory cancer centers, focused on laboratory research and working collaboratively with other institutions.

The Legislature directed $25 million in the Fiscal Year 2024-25 budget specifically to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. The facility also qualifies for “Cancer Innovation Funds” — which lawmakers agreed to increase to $60 million, a $20 million bump. Moreover, the Legislature agreed to earmark an additional $3 million for pediatric cancer research in the spending plan that takes effect July 1.

But Nicklaus doesn’t receive any of the supplemental $127.5 million, officially known as the Casey DeSantis Cancer Research Program. While the Legislature didn’t change how the $127.5 million is spent in Fiscal Year 2024-25, the cancer collaborative does recommend to the Department of Health how to spend the $60 million in innovation grants. 

The First Lady joined the Governor Tuesday and thanked her husband and the Legislature for passing the legislation. The First Lady announced in October 2021 that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She was 41 years old at the time, and has since been declared cancer free.

But that life-changing diagnosis put her on the forefront of the fight against cancer in Florida.

When things happen to you, you have a choice. It’s how do you respond to what happens. And when God gives you the opportunity to throw yourself into the arena to be able to make a difference, what do you do with it?” she said.

“We started Cancer Connect as a way for people to get meaningful information and a one stop shop. The other thing we did with that was to provide testimonials, because I can tell you personally, one of the hardest things is when you feel like there’s no hope, right? That you’re wrestling with the day to day, just really difficulties of having cancer.”

In addition to signing SB 7072, DeSantis signed HB 885 and SB 1582.

HB 885 expands benefits under the state group health insurance program to require coverage of biomarker testing. It also authorizes the Agency for Health Care Administration to pay for biomarker testing.

SB 1582 is an omnibus Department of Health bill with a range of issues, stemming from legal tussles over Black farmer medical marijuana licenses to creating the Andrew John Anderson Pediatric Rare Disease Grant Program to modifying the state’s sickle cell registry program.

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.

One comment

  • SallyB

    June 19, 2024 at 4:27 am

    All three (3) bills signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis not only enjoyed bipartisan support but passed the Legislature unanimously (not one single “no” vote). Thanks to America’s Governor and Republican and Democratic lawmakers for coming together yet again on important legislation. The President and Congress should follow your example.

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704