National Summit Re-declares War on Cancer

Oncology NEWS International Vol 5 No 1, Volume 5, Issue 1

WASHINGTON--The original 'war on cancer' was declared by the President of the United States in 1971, and a cure was promised within 10 years. In that same year, Texas Instruments was developing the first pocket calculator and Intel had just introduced the microchip, said financier Michael R. Milken at the National Cancer Summit. The meeting was sponsored by the Association for the Cure of Cancer of the Prostate (CaP CURE, see box on page 20), which Mr. Milken founded, and by other leading cancer organizations.

WASHINGTON--The original 'war on cancer' was declared by the Presidentof the United States in 1971, and a cure was promised within 10years. In that same year, Texas Instruments was developing thefirst pocket calculator and Intel had just introduced the microchip,said financier Michael R. Milken at the National Cancer Summit.The meeting was sponsored by the Association for the Cure of Cancerof the Prostate (CaP CURE, see box on page 20), which Mr. Milkenfounded, and by other leading cancer organizations.

Today, 25 years later, "Powerbooks have made those firstTI calculators seem like relics, and silicon chips drive everythingfrom microwave ovens to missiles. Yet victory in the war againstcancer still eludes us," said Mr. Milken, chairman of CaPCURE. He believes it is time to re-think and re-declare the waron cancer, to move from "a war of attrition to a new planof attack."

Mr. Milken, a prostate cancer survivor, called cancer a worldwideproblem, requiring a sustained and committed international mobilizationof resources. "The United States has both successfully ledand participated in previous international mobilizations,"he said, citing the 1991 Gulf War effort.

In his talk, Mr. Milken suggested 10 "road signs" tofollow in re-thinking the war on cancer:

1. Internationalize the war on cancer by encouraging otherwealthy nations, such as Japan and Saudi Arabia, to invest heavilyin cancer research. At present, he said, Japan, with the world'ssecond largest economy, plans to spend only $543 million on cancerresearch over 10 years, less than 3% of the United States' estimatedspending.

2. Show large corporations how investing in medical researchand preventive health measures can save them money. "Currently,cancer is costing the nation more than $100 billion a year indirect and indirect health-care costs that can be reduced onlythrough cancer prevention, early detection, and discovery of acure," he said.

3. Recruit and fund a world-class scientific cancer team.At present, he said, fewer than 10% of the world's leading chemists,biologists, and other scientists work in the field of cancer.

4. Coordinate worldwide cancer resources, to reduce duplicationof effort and "cut through fossilized forms and procedures,"Mr. Milken said.

To be effective, he said, "we must link up scientists, clinicians,patients, and even laypersons in a 'Manhattan Project' set inthe information age." Rather than assembling a scientificteam under the same room, investments in communication technologyare needed to create a "virtual laboratory."

5. Accelerate the pace of technology transfers from spaceand military to medicine. He cited advanced ultrasound instrumentationdeveloped by NASA and computer storage and sequencing technologyfrom the Jet Propulsion Laboratory that may have medical applications.

6. Push the technological envelope. "Using computerdatabasing techniques that did not exist just 5 years ago, scientistsshould be creating and analyzing libraries of cancer genes,"he said. "They should be using technology now available thatmakes it possible to look at tens of thousands of genes simultaneouslyand find out how they differ."

7. Create a world library of organic chemicals. An internationalconsortium should be formed to facilitate the rapid testing ofevery known chemical compound against cancer cell lines, employingrobotic devices that can individually perform 2.5 million testsa year, he said.

An investment of $30 million would fund 37 of these advanced roboticdevices, at about $800,000 each. This robotic army, he said, couldtest in a single year four times as many compounds against cancercell lines as have been tested since the start of the war on cancer.

8. Accelerate the approval of new drugs and encourage companiesto allocate resources to research and development of cancer treatments.

9. Develop strategies to get products to the marketplacequickly. "Scientists should be spending their time implementingtheir ideas, not spending months to years writing grant proposalsand then waiting additional months or year for approval and funding,"Mr. Milken said.

He noted that, at CaP CURE, grant applications are restrictedto five pages, and approval is granted within 30 to 45 days. Incontrast, he said, federal grants require "mountains of paperwork"and up to 16 months for approval.

10. Mobilize cancer survivors and families to participatein clinical drug trials or donate tissue and blood for laboratorystudy. "Most of my fellow cancer survivors need just onething: Leadership. They need to be told what they can do,"he said.

Continuing the military analogies that ran throughout his speech,Mr. Milken said that the American people "would not standfor a military war to drag on for 25 years and claim more than10 million American lives. Yet despite growing fatalities anddemoralization of our troops, the war on cancer has been allowedto drift. It's time for real leadership from both the Presidentand Congress.

CaP CURE Funds Prostate Ca Research

Founded in 1993 by Michael R. Milken, CaP CURE (the Associationfor the Cure of Cancer of the Prostate) (see story above) is dedicatedto finding a cure for advanced prostate cancer by rapidly fundingpromising research, clinical investigations, and biotechnologyprojects.

CaP CURE has recently awarded almost $10 million in grants tomore than 70 researchers from 30 institutions worldwide, and another200 research projects are currently awaiting funding.

The association, supported by the Milken Family Foundation, alsoparticipates in public awareness campaigns in order to increaseprivate and public support for prostate cancer research.

As part of its directed research, CaP CURE has established fourregional prostate cancer tissue banks, and has funded a geneticmapping project and a genetics consortium to help gain an understandingof the gene makeup of prostate cancer cell lines.

The association also supports the Prostate Cancer Genetic ResearchStudy (PROGRESS) at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. Researcherswill study families in which three or more blood relatives haveprostate cancer to learn more about family predispositions tothe disease.