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NCAB Has Concerns About Future of Clinical Research

NCAB Has Concerns About Future of Clinical Research

BETHESDA, Md--The National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB) will seriously
consider the suggestion of one of its members to send a strong
message to Congress regarding cancer research.

Philip S. Schein, MD, chairman and CEO, U.S. Bioscience, Inc.,
told the Board, "We need to let Congress and the Administration
know that the war on cancer is not over, and that to cut funding
would be a serious mistake. Despite the recognized advances that
have been made in the management of specific tumors, current statistics
suggest that 50% of newly diagnosed patients will die of their
disease. The status quo is clearly unacceptable."

He then recommended that the Board prepare and transmit a resolution
about the importance of continuing cancer research. Members of
the NCAB agreed and asked Dr. Schein to draft a message.

Fear of the consequences of a proposed 27% cut in NIH funding
by the year 2000 dominated the NCAB meeting. Edward J. Sondik,
MD, acting director of the NCI, exhorted committee members to
think about how their own institutions, as well as the NCI, will
adapt to the reduction in funding. "It means that there will
have to be changes in the way we do business," he said. "All
programs will be affected." [See "Scientists Must Adapt
to Reduced NIH Funds" for Dr. W. Maxwell Cowan's view on
how funding cuts may affect research.]

NCI core grants, while not the biggest revenue source for cancer
centers, are one of the most important. "They provide leverage
for other revenue, and they lend a nurturing aspect to the science
done at an institution," said Robert Young, MD, president,
Fox Chase Cancer Center.

Dr. Young and two other cancer center directors present at the
meeting also cited health-care reform as a major threat to cancer
centers. They fear that changes in the health-care system currently
taking place across the country may limit patients' access to
centers of excellence; seriously jeopardize payment for the patient
care component of clinical trials; threaten the amount of research
funds that academic health-care centers can raise from the private
sector; limit patients' access to oncologists; and imperil innovation
because clinical trials, as currently done, cost more than ordinary
care.

Comprehensive cancer centers are the best places for doing translational
research, and translational research is a major hope for the conquest
of cancer, said Martin D. Abeloff, director, Johns Hopkins Oncology
Center.

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