NCI Director Testifies About Accelerating Progress Toward
Sen. Specter was following up on a question he posed to Dr. von Eschenbach during an April 6 Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the NCI and NIH budgets. "When you appeared here last month I asked what it would take to move the 2015 goal achievement date back to 2010," said Sen. Specter, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, and Education (NCI Cancer Bulletin, April 12).
Dr. von Eschenbach responded that a plan has been developed to address the chairman's question. "The proposal is now going through review by NIH and HHS prior to being officially submitted to Congress and to you specifically," he noted. The plan has three components, he said: funding the National Advanced Technologies Initiative for Cancer; increasing NCI's Comprehensive Cancer Centers network by adding 15 centers; and expanding and integrating the clinical research infrastructure.
"What will be the cost to do all of that?" asked Sen. Specter. Dr. von Eschenbach responded that NCI has proposed a budget to support those initiatives that would amount to approximately $600 million in new federal funding a year.
The discussion of accelerating progress toward the 2015 goal was a sidelight at the May 11 hearing in which Sen. Specter discussed legislation to increase public awareness of gynecological cancers. The senator is sponsoring a bill called "Johanna's Law" to support a federal program to create and distribute information on early symptoms of gynecological cancers. The program would also explain screening options for women with those symptoms.
TV star and author Fran Drescher, a 5-year survivor of uterine cancer, testified in support of the bill. "Unfortunately, it took me 2 years and eight doctors to get a proper diagnosis," she said. Like many women with gynecological cancer, her early symptoms were misdiagnosed and attributed to other conditions. Ms. Drescher was initially diagnosed with a perimenopausal condition and treated with hormone replacement therapy that "actually exacerbated my cancer." Patients need to know the early signs and insist upon proper screening, she urged.
Dr. von Eschenbach outlined NCI's research and education programs for gynecological cancers. The Institute spent $213 million in FY 2004 for "multipronged, multidisciplinary efforts in molecular biology, epidemiology, prevention, treatment, and survivorship issues of gynecological cancers," he noted.