PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) -- Rhode Islanders affected by deadly, hard-to-treat cancers are celebrating a new federal law that requires more research for a cure.
On Monday, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network honored Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse for securing passage of the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act of 2012.
The bill, authored by Senator Whitehouse and signed into law by President Barack Obama last month., requires the National Cancer Institute to prioritize research of the deadliest types of cancer, including pancreatic and lung cancer.
Sen. Whitehouse lost his mother to pancreatic cancer, and his father to lung cancer.
"These are diseases that we need to focus on much more intently," Sen. Whitehouse told Eyewitness News Monday. "There has been literally no progress made in the survival rate for pancreatic cancer and we have to pay attention to that."
Dozens of people gathered for Monday's news conference and celebration at Hasbro Children's Hospital, including Kathryn Boucher, who lost her mother to pancreatic cancer four years ago.
"She was diagnosed shockingly. She had no symptoms with stage four inoperable pancreatic cancer and it just felt like a very hopeless place for all of us," Bocher said.
She hopes the new law will help erase that sense of hopelessness.
"Today is very exciting because this bill is passed. It means hope for a lot of people and hopefully progress towards a cure for this disease."
According to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, only 6% of pancreatic cancer patients live more than five years after being diagnosed with the disease.