Political Leaders Speak Out To Make Cancer A National Priority

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Can two million breast cancer survivors and their loved ones swing the 2008 elections? Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson and Susan G. Komen for the Cure Founder Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker challenged more than 1,000 breast cancer advocates, research scientists and healthcare providers to do exactly that at the 10th annual Komen Mission Conference Founder's Forum Monday evening.

"Can you imagine if every Komen Affiliate holds a debate [on cancer] in every state that's going to have a primary? Can you imagine how much influence that would hold over the candidates?" asked Thompson.

"One in four Americans will die of cancer," said Ambassador Brinker. "Where's the urgency in finding and delivering the cures? It's time to make cancer a national priority."

In addition to Thompson and Brinker, several presidential candidates joined today's forum via pre-recorded interviews. Dr. Eric P. Winer, Komen's Chief Scientific Advisor also participated in the panel moderated by television journalist and Komen ambassador Rene Syler.

Asked how he would make cancer a national priority, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson said, "I will invest in science and technology to find a cure. I will fully fund the National Cancer Institute at a time when those budgets are flat."

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Republican candidate Rudolph Giuliani discussed his personal connections to cancer and urged the private sector to lead the way in finding a cure for cancer, saying, "This could best be done by the American medical system which is essentially private and essentially for profit and essentially driven by investments of huge amounts of money from the private sector."

Democratic candidate John Edwards added, "As President of the United States I would be leading the way to make sure that we are funding research, that we are funding treatment and that we do everything we can possibly do as a nation to address this huge healthcare problem in America with millions of women, and that exists in my own family."

Republican candidate Sam Brownback also committed to making cancer a top priority. "I talk about ending deaths by cancer in 10 years," said Brownback. "This will involve a strong research push, getting access earlier to clinical trails, though that's somewhat controversial, getting more and more screenings at an earlier phase for more and more people whether they have coverage or not."

Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton urged an increase in funding. "As president I support increasing the National Institute of Health budget by 50 percent over five years and double that budget in ten," said Clinton. "I want comparable increases in the National Cancer Institute budget as well."

During a Komen Community Challenge event at the Iowa State Fair, breast cancer survivor Elizabeth Edwards said, "Without organizations like Susan G.

Komen, no one would be talking about this. And if they don't talk about it, what are the chances they're going to do something about it? Honestly, zero."

Ambassador Brinker closed the forum saying, "Breast cancer -- cancer really -- is not a Republican issue, it's not a Democratic issue, is not just an American issue, it's a global issue." She added, "Every one of us must vote and advocate for these issues. It's all about the power of one to make a difference. When we lead, reverentially, but with a rebellious spirit to break down barriers, we can make cancer the global healthcare priority it should be now."

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