Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Love isn’t all that is blind

So is cancer…but so is conviction.

I had the pleasure of attending a reception this week at the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Annual Mission Conference. Per my expectations, the bustling room was filled with brave survivors, accomplished scientists, and visionary activists fully accessorized with their pink ribbons. What I was not expecting was the diversity of participants that crossed age brackets, races, and geographies.

Based on data from the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among almost every racial and ethnic group. Women of African American, Hispanic, Asian American, and American Indian descent were there to reaffirm the Susan G. Komen for the Cure vision and lead their charge in advising the organization with respect to these particular populations. I also made the acquaintance of women who traveled thousands of miles from Jordan and the United Arab Emirates to represent The Middle East Partnership. This is the first partnership for breast cancer between the United States and the Middle East in efforts to build capacity, raise awareness, and increase collaborative research within the region. Finally, I was taken by the youth of some of the participants. Although less than 5 percent of all breast cancer cases occur in women under age 40, I met women as young as 21 who were cancer survivors themselves. They were energized to strengthen disease awareness and promote prevention initiatives among their peers.

Was the attendance of these groups a dismal indication of the far-reaching prevalence of the disease and cancer’s blindness to ethnicity, generation, or continental border? Perhaps to some. But to me, their participation was the manifestation of a greater conviction -- that a unified, cross-cultural, and comprehensive approach to awareness, prevention, screening, treatment, research, and empowerment could bring about great change. And that well-coordinated, global and multi-generational efforts could bring about both a stronger fight and faster cure.

Melissa Stevens, Director of Special Projects, FasterCures

Melissa Stevens joined FasterCures in June 2007 as Director of Special Projects and Interim Project Director for the Philanthropy Advisory Service initiative. She comes to FasterCures from PricewaterhouseCoopers where, as a Manager in their Health Sciences Advisory Practice, she lead large teams in providing strategic, operational, and business planning services to commercial and federal clients across the healthcare continuum.

Melissa has served academic medical centers, private research institutes, and large health systems in developing strategies for implementing clinical and translational research programs, designing conceptual models for collaboration, and assessing infrastructure to support research enterprises. Melissa received both her B.S. in Biochemistry and her M.B.A. from the Pennsylvania State University.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

It’s about Cancer, Stupid.

Lance Armstrong’s cancer forum is putting the wrong people under the lights. Even if the presidential candidates found a cure for cancer right there on stage, with the way the media covers politics the rest of us would never know. How is it possible that after discussing their approaches to winning – dare I say it – the war on cancer -- the headlines are about which candidate is willing to take which lobbyists’ money? I thought journalists were taught not to bury the lead. Well the lead is the toll in death and suffering cancer is taking, not the campaign contributions candidates are taking.

The press continues to confuse healthcare economics with curing diseases. The benefit of Lance’s gathering is it forces candidates to go beyond the “more money” argument and into how they would change something. In a discussion about curing and surviving cancer, it is folly to debate which lobby groups are “acceptable” as donors. The last time major health players were left out of the game, they defeated a popular President by putting two actors playing man and wife sitting around a kitchen table shaking their heads. If we are going to create medical solutions for cancer, we will need everybody at the table with open minds, collaborative natures, and valuable human and financial resources. And not shaking their heads.

Lance was right to ask the field of future Presidents how they would attack cancer. Now let's start asking the press to cover the answers and not let them change the subject to pick silly fights.

Greg Simon, President, FasterCures

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

See You in September…

When Congress comes back in session this September, some heavy lifting is needed to ensure that two agencies vital to advances in biomedical research have adequate resources.

The FDA appropriations process for fiscal year 2008 continues. We appreciate the Senate’s 11% increase above the enacted 2007 budget, and see this as a first step towards a five-year effort to increase the FDA budget. We were happy to see an increase, and hope that the House will accept the Senate number. It is vital that the agency be given more funding, end of story.

Other important work on drug safety will need action in September. The Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) reauthorization needs to be addressed since it expires at the end of September. The PDUFA reauthorization contains some key initiatives to move us forward on drug safety and address some of the concerns outlined in the IOM’s report on the topic released almost a year ago. Two areas covered in PDUFA that we are paying close attention to are the FDA Critical Path Initiative which needs more resources, and the proposed Reagan-Udall Foundation which needs to be launched immediately. We believe this Foundation can serve as the research arm of the FDA. There is a wealth of information that resides within the FDA that can be brought to bear on drug safety analysis and drug development issues.

Finally, bills for NIH appropriations will also be considered when Congress returns to session in September. The House and Senate numbers offer slight increases, and there is great concern that NIH will continue cost-cutting if more funds aren’t appropriated.

We certainly need to continue investing in medical research now, in order to accelerate medical solutions for later.

Margaret Anderson, COO, FasterCures