The Washington Post

Federal pediatric medical research act named for Gabriella Miller

Gabriella Miller (Family photo)

In a documentary film shot just weeks before her death, 10-year-old Gabriella Miller was asked whether there was anything she’d like to say to U.S. leaders about the need for pediatric cancer research.

“Less talking, more doing,” she answered firmly. “We need action.”

After Gabriella died Oct. 26, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) saw the video of her interview online, and was moved by the fifth-grader’s urgent plea, said Megan Whittemore, Cantor’s press secretary.

Cantor, a strong supporter of a bipartisan pediatric medical research bill introduced in April, announced Thursday that the bill would be renamed in Gabriella’s honor.

“Gabriella Miller was a tireless advocate for curing childhood cancer and her family recognizes that this bipartisan legislation can help other children,” Whittemore said in a prepared statement. “To honor Gabriella’s memory, we will be renaming the pediatric research bill as the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act.”

Gabriella, who gained national attention and rallied supporters across the world through her advocacy for childhood cancer research and awareness, became a celebrated activist during her 11-month battle with an inoperable brain tumor. She raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and helped launch the Smashing Walnuts Foundation to fund pediatric cancer research.

Cantor and Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) met Thursday morning with Gabriella’s parents, Mark and Ellyn Miller, to discuss the legislation, Whittemore said in an interview.

Gabriella’s words “really spoke to the House Majority Leader, and he wanted to meet the Millers personally. He felt like this was a good fit, that this is a bill that will actually help other children,” Whittemore said.

The bill — sponsored by Harper, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) — has 150 co-sponsors in the House, Whittemore said, and Cantor hopes to have the legislation considered by the end of the year.

The bill “clearly reflects Congressional priorities in funding: medical research before political parties and conventions,” according to a prepared statement by Cantor’s office.

The bill would draw from the Presidential Election Campaign Fund – which was not utilized by either major political party candidate in the last election, and is principally used to finance Democratic and Republican national party conventions – and would redirect the money to help expand pediatric cancer research activities through the Common Fund at the National Institutes of Health, according to a statement by Cantor’s office.

About $126 million in funds would be provided by the act over a 10-year period, the statement said.

Whittemore said the Millers brought a bouquet of brightly-colored tissue-paper flowers to their meeting with Cantor. The flowers, which were collected by the thousands after Gabriella’s death, were displayed at her memorial service and intended to be distributed to people who could make a difference in the fight against cancer: researchers, legislators, nurses, patients.

“The leader has them in his office now,” Whittemore said.

(The online version of this story has been corrected to reflect that Cantor is a supporter of but not a sponsor of the medical research bill.)

Caitlin Gibson is a feature writer at The Washington Post.

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