AUSTIN (AP) - Lance Armstrong won his battle with cancer.
Now he wants to win the war.
The seven-time Tour de France winner put his celebrity power to work Friday, headlining efforts at the Texas Capitol in a late push to get a $3 billion cancer research referendum to voters in the fall.
"I'm living proof that funding critical research works," Armstrong said. "If we get this done, I can honestly say it will be the greatest thing I've ever done with my work within cancer, which makes it one of the greatest things I've done in my life."
Legislation to create the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas has already passed the state House of Representatives but is bumping up against Senate deadlines before the session ends May 28.
If approved by the Senate, the issue would go to the voters on the November statewide ballot.
Armstrong also testified Friday night in front of a key Senate committee before the panel voted to send the measure to the full Senate for a vote next week.
"This is an investment in human life," Armstrong said, wiping away a tear after speaking.
An estimated 35,000 Texans die of cancer every year, and 85,000 new cases are diagnosed. Armstrong, who recovered from testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain before winning the Tour de France every year from 1999-2005, has become a strong advocate for cancer research since his retirement.
The Lance Armstrong Foundation, along with the American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen breast cancer foundation, have been involved in the idea for the research institute since it was born early this year.
But with time running out and the bill still waiting for a Senate vote, Armstrong's appearance at the Capitol helped rally support. He wore a yellow tie and his trademark yellow Livestrong wristband.
"This can't be viewed as an expense," Armstrong said. "It has to be viewed as an investment. … I look forward to working hard to make sure the people of Texas know this is something we can all be proud of."
The plan would allow the state to issue up to $300 million a year in general obligation bonds, which the research institute would use to make grants to public or private institutions, state universities and medical schools.
Some lawmakers have questioned financing the project with bonds that could accrue billions in interest debt and whether finding a cure for cancer is a realistic goal for the massive project.
But by Friday night, the vote in the Senate Finance Committee, committee where the measure was considered in danger of failing, was 11-0.
"We are going to find a cure for cancer," said Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville. She said at least 25 of the Senate's 31 members support the measure in a full Senate vote.
Cancer research has traditionally been funded by the federal government.
The National Cancer Institute spent about $4.7 billion on research in the 2006 fiscal year in its own labs and through grants and agreements with universities, hospitals, research foundations and private businesses.