Friday, May 9, 2008

The “War on Cancer” 37 years later

The U.S. Senate HELP Committee heard a resounding cry to reinvigorate the war on cancer. The Committee convened a hearing on “Cancer Challenges and Opportunities in the 21st Century,” as part of Sens. Kennedy and Hutchison’s legislative efforts to look into a comprehensive approach to cancer research, prevention, and treatment.

Bipartisan efforts in 1971 led to President Nixon’s announcement of the “War on Cancer.” Now our society faces what Senator Kennedy called "a perfect storm of conditions that increased the number of people living with cancer today – aging population, environmental issues, increased life expectance, and unhealthy individual behavior." And still, 37 years since we waged the war on cancer, it continues to be the second leading cause of death in America.
  • Cancer will claim over 565,000 Americans in 2008, more than 1,500 people each day
  • There will be 1.4 million new cancer cases in 2008
Arguing that the nation can no longer afford the human and financial toll from cancer, FasterCures President Greg Simon told the Committee that “we cannot fight this war on cancer with the strategy we’ve got. We’ve got to fight it with the strategy we need.”

Some of the strongest advocates in cancer care, prevention and treatment presented the Committee with some key points to consider as they pursue this effort:
  • Lance Armstrong, Chairman and Founder, Lance Armstrong Foundation: “This opponent is probably tougher than anything we'll ever face… Cancer doesn't care if you're Republican or Democrat, young or old, black, white or Native American, rich or poor. It comes and it comes hard, and it is ruthless and relentless.”
  • Elizabeth Edwards, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress and wife of former Senator John Edwards “We have chosen as a nation to turn our backs on some of us who have cancer. We need to acknowledge that health insurance matters and lack of insurance changes health outcomes.” She urged the Committee to “reform healthcare responsibly, morally and aggressively and save millions of us.” Steve Case, Chairman and CEO, Revolution Health: “Policies now in place limit collaboration and slow innovation…we should not prevent NCI from pursuing the most effective model to find a cure for cancer.”
  • Ed Benz M.D., President, Dana Farber Cancer Institute: “The American public has made an investment in cancer research unequalled by that of any other nation…We have the opportunity, now, to honor that investment by ensuring a level of funding that will bring the promise of current cancer science to fruition.”
  • Greg Simon, President, FasterCures: pointed out that all cancer research organizations face the same problems regardless of the diseases they focus on. “We need to devise a system to cure diseases. We need to bring the appropriate tools to this problem, whether it is human or financial capital.”
  • Hala Moddelmog, President and CEO, Susan G. Komen for the Cure: In talking about where we stand on cancer research and policy, said “this balkanization of body parts is not necessary…We are facing a cancer crisis in our investment in prevention and early detection of cancers; a crisis in our dedication to innovative cancer research; and a crisis in patient access to the highest quality cancer care and treatment.”
Here’s hoping this hearing will spur the development of the right strategy to wage a war against cancer that we could and should win. The troops are at the ready.

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