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Congress Is Urged to Increase Funding for Lymphoma Research

Congress Is Urged to Increase Funding for Lymphoma Research

WASHINGTON—Two days after the release of new cancer incidence and mortality data showing that new cases of lymphoma and lymphoma deaths have continued to rise, the Lymphoma Research Foundation of America (LRFA) took its plea for an increase in research funds for the disease to Capitol Hill.

According to an annual status report on cancer new cases of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma increased at an average annual rate of 0.6% and deaths rose an average of 1.8% annually between 1990 and 1996. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 56,800 new cases and 25,700 deaths in 1999, making non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma the fifth most common cancer in the United States.

Turning that trend around will require more money for research, said Saul A. Rosenberg, MD, professor of medicine, Stanford University, and a member of LRFA’s Honorary Medical Board.“We don’t want to take it away from other cancers, but we certainly need more,” he said at a congressional briefing sponsored by LRFA.

During testimony earlier in the month before the House appropriations subcommittee in charge of the NIH budget, Dr. Richard Boxer, LRFA board member and lymphoma survivor, urged increased funding for lymphoma research at NCI. He also asked Congress to back the promotion of innovative models to maximize current lymphoma research and to specify more funding for research into currently incurable low-grade and aggressive lymphomas. He also urged coordinated research efforts between the NCI, NIEHS, and CDC to investigate environmental and other factors implicated as causes of lymphoma.

However, Rep. Rick Lazio (R-NY), chair of the House Cancer Awareness Working Group, cautioned LRFA representatives about a reluctance in Congress to dictate increased funding for specific cancers, as opposed to raising the overall pool of money for cancer research.

Both Dr. Rosenberg and James O. Armitage, MD, chairman of the Internal Medicine Department, University of Nebraska Medical Center, and LRFA Honorary Medical Board member, emphasized that lymphoma is actually a family of related diseases with significantly different survival rates.

Dr. Armitage commented that “although lymphoma incidence and mortality rates have been rising for the last half century, only recently have researchers begun to learn a great deal about the biology of the diseases, including important insights into the lymph system.” And this expanding knowledge has opened opportunities to improve existing therapies and develop new ones.

Many lives now lost could be saved simply by providing present state-of-the-art treatments uniformly to all lymphoma patients, he noted. Correcting the disparities in care among different economic, ethnic, and racial groups offers an excellent avenue to reverse the current upward trend in lymphoma deaths.

The increasing knowledge of lymphoma biology is opening up opportunities to create therapies that target specific elements in the disease process, Dr. Armitage added. A better understanding of the roles of such things as agricultural pesticides and certain viruses and bacteria in lymphoma should usher in prevention measures to reduce the incidence.

The Lymphoma Research Foundation of America was founded in 1991 by its president, Ellen Glesby Cohen, a lymphoma patient. It has since made grants totaling nearly $2.5 million to support 73 lymphoma research projects at top universities and cancer centers around the country. LRFA also provides information, education, and support services for lymphoma patients and their families.

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