Leavitt Confirmed as HHS Secretary
On January 26, Michael O. Leavitt was sworn in as the 20th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). As HHS Secretary, he will command an annual budget in excess of $548 billion and will oversee more than 66,600 federal employees, including those of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Cancer Institute (NCI).
Prior to his current service, Secretary Leavitt served as Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and as Governor of Utah. He is widely recognized as a health care innovator and welfare reformer. In 1994, the Utah legislature passed then-Governor Leavitt's "HealthPrint," a comprehensive, incremental approach to health care improvement in the state. A decade later, Utah has more than 400,000 additional people with health insurance, marked increases in the number of children with health care coverage, and per capita cost of healthcare 25 percent below the national average.
Secretary Leavitt also has an accomplished record on cancer control and outreach. During his service as Governor of Utah, he joined with the Huntsman Cancer Institute to draw attention to the high incidence of skin cancer among Utahns through Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month. Also under his leadership, the state launched the Utah Cancer Action Network, a consortium of 70 agencies and individuals that were "champions" of cancer issues. Secretary Leavitt is also a former member of the Board of Directors of the American Legacy Foundation, an organization established in the 1998 settlement agreement between 46 state attorneys general and the tobacco industry to reduce tobacco usage in the United States. Read more
Pursuing the Promise of Biomarkers
In recent presentations about the great potential of cancer biomarkers and diagnostics, Nobel laureate Dr. Leland Hartwell has delivered a critical message. "I am optimistic that we have the knowledge, science, and technology to greatly improve outcomes for cancer in a relatively short timeframe," he said at last year's American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting. "But I am cautious because I don't know whether we have the ability to organize the effort."
We do, in fact, have the knowledge to make significant advances across the cancer care spectrum over the next decade, especially in the area of cancer biomarkers. If we can strategically and systematically apply that knowledge, we can dramatically alter the cancer process, paving the way for early detection and the ability to predict a cancer's biologic virulence - both of which could significantly reduce morbidity and mortality from cancer.