NCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research NewsNCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research News
January 23, 2007 • Volume 4 / Number 4 E-Mail This Document  |  Download PDF  |  Bulletin Archive/Search  |  Subscribe

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A Conversation with…Dr. Grace L. Butler

Dr. Grace L. Butler with President George Bush Dr. Grace L. Butler is professor emeritus at the University of Houston. She is a colorectal cancer survivor who founded Hope Through Grace in 2002. Dr. Butler was recently appointed to serve on the NCI Director's Consumer Liaison Group (DCLG) and also participated in the roundtable discussion with President Bush during his recent visit to NIH.

The roundtable discussion included several topics about advances in cancer treatment and other issues. What aspects of the discussion were of particular interest to you?
I was very interested in Dr. Niederhuber’s talk about NCI, the challenges they face, and his vision for the institute. I’m particularly interested in NCI’s initiatives to create stronger alliances with community-based organizations. This is absolutely necessary as we seek to find better ways of putting research into practice, especially within lay communities and among those who may not participate in clinical trials or health education programs. I’m thinking especially of the underserved populations. Likewise, I had a great conversation with [NHGRI Director] Dr. [Francis] Collins about the importance of family health histories. Hope Through Grace emphasizes the importance of family health histories in our education programs.

What issues did the President seem particularly interested in and what were his
comments or observations about those issues?
The President expressed very positive remarks about the agencies represented at the roundtable. He spoke of his commitment to NCI and of the increased levels of funding which have occurred under his Administration. In sum, the President was very receptive to what was being said around the table and the research that is being done. He urged each of us to use a vocabulary the average person could understand. I considered this to be an indication that he really wanted the public to benefit from the presentations and discussions at the table.

70 Years of Excellence in Cancer Research

If Memory Serves...

On August 5, 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed legislation that established NCI to support research related to the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. (Read more)

For more information about the birth of NCI, go to http://www.

I sensed compassion from the President as I spoke about my journey and the nonprofit organization I’ve created. My involvement in the cancer community was the result of several meetings I had with health care providers about the issue of what is going to happen for uninsured people in our community. I especially remember asking a group of physicians about what was going to happen to those people: Are they simply going to be left to die? A gastroenterologist gave me a very cogent response and at the end he told me the answer to my question is “Yes.”

When I heard that, I felt a lump in my throat. I couldn’t believe this was happening in the United States. The information I gleaned from those meetings was the inspiration for founding Hope Through Grace. I recounted this story to the President. He expressed compassion for what I said and the issues I raised. He is also aware that, although the overall mortality rates for cancer are on the decline, there is a disproportionate incidence of cancer among some minority groups and we need to take assertive measures to eliminate these disparities.