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'To Be or Not to Be,' That's the Question for The National Action Plan on Breast Cancer

'To Be or Not to Be,' That's the Question for The National Action Plan on Breast Cancer

WASHINGTON--The steering committee of the National Action Plan on Breast Cancer (NAPBC) finds itself confronting its future--whether it should have one. Should the group set a time to end the innovative program, or should it continue?

The issue, spawned by an earlier steering committee decision [see Oncology News International, December 1996], arose again during a meeting with Health and Human Services Secretary Donna E. Shalala, PhD.

Last November, the committee voted to return to the National Cancer Institute all but $750,000 of the $14.75 million allotted to the NAPBC (and to other cross-cutting breast cancer activities) by Congress for the current fiscal year.

Most members believe the program should serve as a catalyst, identifying areas of need in breast cancer research, care, and education, and then working with appropriate agencies and organizations to get these issues greater funding and attention. They do not want the NAPBC to fund research directly.

Last November, the steering committee asked that the $14 million go to the National Cancer Institute for research. The committee, consisting of representatives from inside and outside the federal government, is unique in the federal system. It believes it has the power to decide what the NAPBC will do, not just serve as an advisory board.

'A New Concept'

At their February meeting, committee members sought to clarify the power issue with Secretary Shalala. And at one point, Susan M. Love, MD, adjunct associate professor of surgery, UCLA, told the HHS Secretary: "We really never intended to go on forever and become another bureaucracy." Dr. Love suggested that the group should think about setting a time to wind up its efforts and go out of business.

"That's a new concept for those of us who have been in government," Secretary Shalala jokingly replied. The Secretary asked the committee to give her its thoughts by the end of the day about whether the NAPBC should cease. The committee chose, however, to give the matter to one of its internal working groups for greater consideration.

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