Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Mr. Clanton Goes to Washington

(Washington, D.C.) If you’ve thought this corner of the blogosphere has been a little quiet this week, well, you’re right. I’ve been a little busy.

This posting comes to you direct from Gate 14 at Reagan National Airport, just across the Potomac from our Nation’s Capital. The past three days have been spent in preparing and presenting research on behalf of the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society.

This is a lame-duck year in Congress.
Although there’s a “new” Democrat majority in control, they are rapidly reaping the whirlwind of their own stalling tactics of the past six years.
Republicans are fast learners.
Well, maybe not, but they have taken good notes on how the Dem's managed to delay action on stuff they didn’t like.
Now it’s the Republicans’ turn.

This would all be very entertaining, were there not some real life and death issues at stake.
No, not the Iraq War funding bill.
But appropriations for continuing funding for blood cancer research at the National Cancer Institute, the Department of Defense, and the Geraldine Ferraro Blood Cancer Research Education Program are three key areas in which we really can’t afford to cut corners.

Research funding has actually shrunk in recent years, despite a doubling of efforts and appropriations. Even when funding remains flat, it’s a step backwards because of the effects of inflation. The fear is that because the researchers who are doing the serious work of identifying how cancer works and identifying the compounds to counter it, are like you and me, they go where the money is.

Doing rewarding science work doesn’t always pay the bills.
And as federal funding wanes, there’s a “brain drain” effect in this area of science.
That also creates a loss of momentum in the work and progress that has been achieved so far by these brilliant researchers.

So I and 300 of my cohorts in the Leukemia Lymphoma Society mounted another annual Mission Day to preach the gospel of Gleevec and promote the idea that with more money to pay researchers, the final key to curing all cancers can be obtained. We’re close.

On Monday I lunched with Dr. Robert Newell, who 40-years ago had an idea that cancer might be the result of a genetic flaw. He was right—and determined how chromosomes which are mis-stacked cause cells to mis-fire internally. Based on his work, Gleevec was developed which completely corrects the genetic flaws which cause Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML) in the majority of patients which use it. A secondary benefit of this medication is its use in the treatment of Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors.

There are more developments to be made…but it takes money.
And time.

Wars come and go.
Parties rise up and decay.
Power shifts.

Cancer, however, respects neither race, gender or party lines.
The congressmen we talked to this week said they get that.
I hope they do.

You might want to drop your congressman a line this week, and encourage them to support more funding for blood cancer research at the federal level.

You may thank yourself later, when a friend, family member…or you…discovers you have a personal need for the results of that life-saving work.

No comments: