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President's Cancer Panel Recommends National Priority for Cancer

In a new report Maximizing Our Nation’s Investment in Cancer:Three Crucial Actions for America’s Health the President’s Cancer Panel makes three recommendations to the President that they feel are critical to the battle against cancer in the United States.

  • Make reducing the cancer burden a national priority.
  • Ensure that all Americans have timely access to needed health care and disease prevention measures.
  • End the scourge of tobacco in the United States.

The President’s Cancer Panel was created with the passage of the National Cancer Act in 1971. Its three members have a responsibility to report on barriers to full implementation of the National Cancer Program and make recommendations to overcome them.  Panel members responsible for the 2007-2008 Report were:

  • LaSalle D. Leffall, Jr., M.D., F.A.C.S., of the Howard University College of Medicine
  • Margaret L. Kripke, Ph.D., of The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center,
  • Lance Armstrong, cancer survivor and founder of the Lance Armstrong Foundation

In February 2008, President Bush appointed Joe Torre, a cancer survivor and Los Angeles Dodgers manager to replace Lance Armstrong.

Four in ten people in the United States will develop cancer at some point in their lives.  In 2008 more than 1.4 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer and 565,000 will die.

However, despite the growing US burden of cancer, in developing the 2007-2008 recommendations for the President, the Panel pointed out disturbing trends:

  • A declining cancer research budget
  • Avoidable inefficiencies and poor collaboration among governmental, voluntary, industry, and academic organizations working on cancer research
  • Questions about the appropriate focus and emphasis on cancer research in light of current cancer trends
  • An aging and increasingly sedentary population
  • A more and more fragmented and unsustainable health care system
  • An increasing number of uninsured, underinsured, and underserved Americans due to a steady erosion of public and private health care coverage
  • Continued tobacco use, reduced cancer control funding, and increased tobacco marketing targeting young people, women, and other vulnerable groups
  • Complacency and a lack of understanding and sense of urgency among policymakers, the research and health communities, and the public about the growing burden of cancer

In their Executive Summary, the Panel challenged Americans and their leaders to make cancer an urgent priority saying,

It no longer is acceptable to say that because cancer is complex, disparities in care are entrenched, and the tobacco companies are powerful, we cannot solve the problem of cancer in America. We can. But to do so, cancer must become a national priority—one that is guided by strong leadership; fueled by adequate funding and productive collaboration and compromise among governments, industry, and institutions; and embraced by individuals who understand and accept their personal role in preventing cancer and in demanding meaningful progress.

Thoughts from Kate

I am one of that forty percent of Americans whose life has been touched by cancer — too many times in my own life and that of my family and friends.

I welcome the strong words of the President’s Cancer Panel, and I hope that despite the frightening financial crisis we find ourselves in, the pressure of two costly wars, and a change in Washington leadership, we will listen and learn!

By letting government funding for cancer research stagnate, we are literally eating our seed corn.  There is exciting research going on, but it cannot continue without the brains and vision of young researchers.  However, as the Panel points out, they are being forced out of cancer research by dwindling funding and lack of opportunities for their careers to grow.

We know how to prevent many colorectal cancers and find others early . . . but millions of Americans cannot access the simplest screening tests because they have no insurance.

Cancer is a war that we can win.  I believe that with my whole heart, and I spend many hours each day working on the struggle to win it.  I urge you all — citizens, researchers, legislators, President — to join Dr. Leffall, Dr. Kripke, Lance Armstrong, Joe Torre and me in the fight.

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