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Testifying today at a U.S. Senate Committee hearing on federal priorities for the fight against cancer, Dana-Farber President Edward J. Benz, Jr., MD, urged legislators to view cancer research through the widest possible prism.
Benz was invited to speak at the hearings, titled "Cancer: Challenges and Opportunities in the 21st Century," by the committee's chair, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts. Benz spoke not only as president of Dana-Farber and the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center, but also as president of the Association of American Cancer Institutes, which represents 92 leading cancer research centers across the country, and co-chair of the Research Working Group, a panel of scientists, physicians, and policy advocates who surveyed the world of cancer research in the U.S. and made recommendations to the committee.
Watch Web cast of the hearing
Read Dr. Benz's written testimony
Media interest in the event was driven by the prominence and influence of those giving testimony. Joining Benz at the presenters' table were Elizabeth Edwards, JD, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, and wife of former presidential hopeful John Edwards, whose announcement last year that she had recurrent breast cancer has made her one of the country's most visible faces of cancer survivorship; Lance Armstrong, seven-time winner of the Tour de France bicycle race, survivor of testicular cancer, and chairman and founder of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which supports and advocates for people with cancer; Steve Case, co-founder of America Online and chairman and CEO of Revolution Health, a company that aims to increase people's responsibility for their own health and medical choices; Greg Simon, JD, president of Faster Cures, an organization which works to speed the development of new cures for diseases; and Hala Moddelmog, MA, CEO of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which is dedicated to research and education into the causes and treatment of cancer.
The committee is considering new cancer legislation at a time when a leveling off of National Cancer Institute (NCI) funding for independent investigators and laboratories is widely regarded as hampering the pace of cancer research. Despite a doubling of such funding between 1998 and 2003, appropriations since that time have been essentially flat. The effect has been a clamp on established investigators' abilities to obtain or renew research grants, a turn toward more conventional, less innovative research, and discouragement among young scientists seeking to enter the field.
The bill that emerges from the committee will be sent to the full Senate and House of Representatives this fall. Legislators hope it will be taken up for action by both houses in the first 100 days of the new presidential administration, which begins in January of next year.