By Margaret Anderson, COO, FasterCures
I was going through some clips this week and the Houston Chronicle Op-Ed caught my eye Now's time to reinvigorate country's War on Cancer. U.S. Senators Kennedy and Hutchison outlines in the piece what their bipartisan legislation proposes to do to get things moving. Of the many important proposals detailed in the legislation, the third solution the senators present focuses on a more coordinated approach to cancer research. There was also mention of how "Integrated research will help accelerate the progress of lifesaving research. The search for cures should be a collaborative goal." Indeed!
I was particularly pleased when the senators highlighted the need to establishing an interconnected network of biorepositories with broadly accessible sources of tissue collection and storage. Biospecimens are often cited by the research community as the most critical of all issues. Unfortunately, experts contend that "of the 350 million specimens collected in the United States, only 30 percent of them - some say the number is even lower - are of a quality standard high enough for research purposes." That's why we developed and facilitate BioBank Central. We want to link researchers with resources, encourage the donation of specimens, and educate the public about scientific advancements. I am hopeful that this bipartisan legislation will be instrumental in breaking down this obstacle to research progress.
The senators went on to state in this piece that "our national policy should encourage all stakeholders in the War on Cancer to become allies and work in concert toward cures." It's certainly not that scientists and doctors don't want to be allies, if they could have done anything to save the lives of the half a million Americans who died of cancer in 2008, they surely would have. But there is work to be done to create the necessary networks, and then to maximize their potential.
My father, Don Anderson, was one of the thousands who died prematurely of cancer in 2005, and the research team that led his leukemia clinical trial at Johns Hopkins University did everything they could to find treatments to extend and maybe even save his life. On the day that someone you love dies of cancer, you cannot help but think about all of the other families that are going through that experience at the same time. It is not a comforting thought. The barriers that stood in the way of progress in the research he participated in went well beyond the scientific questions the team faced about how to shut down the mechanism of his cancer, and surely included the barriers this legislation aims to address.
Let's be sure to have a robust discussion about these barriers and potential solutions in the context of the Kennedy-Hutchison cancer bill. There will be an anticipated 1.4 million Americans diagnosed with cancer this year that will get added to the group of people whose lives have been changed forever by cancer. They and their families and friends are all anxious for rapid progress in cancer research and care. Let's make it happen.