Battling Cancer And Recession

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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Despite difficult financial times and flat federal funding of biomedical research, five important actions -- which can be implemented rapidly and at modest cost -- can yield dramatic results for patients and the public. So write three leaders of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in a commentary published today by "The Oncologist."

In the article, James H. Doroshow, M.D., director of NCI's Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis; Robert T. Croyle, Ph.D., director of its Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences; and John E. Niederhuber, M.D., director of the National Cancer Institute recommend:

-- Significantly increasing enrollment of Medicare patients into cancer clinical trials, by modestly increasing the Medicare reimbursement rate for the type of office visits required for patients entered into clinical trials.

-- Increasing collaborations between NCI and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to determine the effectiveness of new cancer drugs.

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-- Undertaking a national outcomes research demonstration project, to help close the gap between the rapid pace of innovation in biomedicine and our ability to harness it to improve population health.

-- Leveraging existing tobacco-control collaborations and possible new authorities at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, tackle tobacco control with the seriousness and energy it deserves.

-- Disseminating information about and implementing greater levels of colorectal cancer screening.

This short list of actions, the authors propose, "has the potential for substantial clinical and public health impact at minimal cost. All of these can be implemented quickly because they build directly on existing research, clinical, and public health models." Taken together, the total cost of these five initiatives would be $210 million.

Bruce A. Chabner, M.D., editor-in-chief of "The Oncologist" in a lead editorial summarized that, "as a nation, we must proceed with the conquest of this disease, despite our economic limitations. The scientific opportunities have never been greater and, as our population ages and other diseases come under control, cancer will play an increasingly dominant place in America's health ... and health policy." "On the eve of the inauguration of President-elect Obama," Dr. Chabner continued, "there is enormous opportunity, and medical research is perhaps the area in which our country has its greatest leadership role and its greatest potential for economic return on its investment."

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