WASHINGTON--In an extraordinary decision, the steering committee of the National Action Plan on Breast Cancer (NAPBC) voted to reject nearly the entire $14.75 million that Congress provided it for use in fiscal year 1997.
The group decided that some $4.3 million left over from fiscal 1996 was nearly enough to cover its operations for the current fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, 1996. Therefore, the steering committee chose in a 13 to 0 vote (with 4 abstentions) to retain only $750,000 of its appropriated funds and asked that the remaining $14 million go to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to support research on breast cancer.
Four committee members abstained from voting, including cochair Susan J. Blumenthal, MD, MPA, a deputy assistant secretary for health at HHS, and three committee members from the NCI.
The vote indicated the strong desire of a large majority of the steering committee to keep the plan focused on a limited number of areas. The vote now goes as a recommendation to the HHS secretary, who will decide whether to shift the money to NCI or use it elsewhere.
"The idea of the NAPBC was to jump-start areas of breast cancer research that were not receiving enough attention," Frances M. Visco, JD, president, National Breast Cancer Coalition, and co-chair of the NAPBC, told Oncology News International after the vote. "We don't need to be out there doing everything."
The committee also voted to ask the HHS secretary to reaffirm support for the NAPBC operating plan, as formulated by the steering committee. As with the vote to reject the government funds, this vote stemmed from a long-standing clash of visions over the group's scope of activities--whether it should expand, as is consistent with the strategy of the plan, "to coordinate actions . . . to advance knowledge, research, policy, and services," or remain focused on a few specific breast cancer issues, as many of the scientists from the NIH and the non-government breast cancer advocates on the panel desire.