IVAN ALLEN COLLEGE NAMES WILLIAM J. TODD RECIPIENT OF 2010 IVAN ALLEN JR. PRIZE
Georgia Tech’s Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts has named William J. Todd, president and CEO of the Georgia Cancer Coalition, as the 2010 recipient of the Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Progress and Service. Todd will accept the award during the College’s annual Founder’s Day event on Monday, March 15, in the Georgian Ballroom at The Biltmore. Todd’s acceptance speech at 1:00 p.m. will be free and open to the public as space permits.
A Georgia Tech alumnus, Todd has devoted 38 years to healthcare and technology management in Atlanta and currently leads the Georgia Cancer Coalition in efforts to make the state a national leader in cancer care and reduce cancer deaths among Georgians. Ivan Allen College Interim Dean Kenneth J. Knoespel highlighted Todd’s embodiment of the values and principles of former Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen Jr.
“Bill Todd is an extraordinary humanitarian and community leader. His accomplishments and steadfast commitment embody Mayor Allen’s advocacy and compassion. It is our privilege to recognize his contributions to our community, state and the world,” said Knoespel.
Todd founded Encina Technology Ventures and was founding president of the Georgia Research Alliance. He has held administrative posts with Emory University, Grady Memorial Hospital, Wesley Woods, Emory Clinic, and Emory’s School of Medicine and Woodruff Health Sciences Center. Throughout his career, Todd has served on the boards of some of Atlanta’s most influential civic and business entities and in organizations that have provided strategic guidance for Georgia Tech. He has been honored in Northern Ireland for his work to further peace in that region.
Todd will be the tenth leader to receive the Ivan Allen Jr. Award for Progress and Service. The Prize recognizes individuals associated with Georgia who have contributed to the progress and service of society through fields relevant to the curriculum of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts. Past honorees have included former President Jimmy Carter, former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, Ted Turner, and CARE President and CEO Helene Gayle.
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MOREHOUSE SCHOOL OF MEDICINE (MSM) RESEARCHERS HAVE DISCOVERED A NOVEL POST-TRANSLATIONAL MECHANISM THAT WILL HAVE GLOBAL EFFECT ON THE GENE EXPRESSIO
Atlanta, July 7, 2009 — Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) researchers have discovered a novel post-translational mechanism that will have global effect on the gene expression, differentiation, cancer and other human diseases.
Shyam Reddy, Ph.D., professor and co-director, Cancer Biology Program, and Georgia Cancer Coalition distinguished cancer scholar, and his group have shown for the first time transcription factor CBP-mediated post-translational N-glycosylation of BRCA2 protein (involved in breast, ovarian and prostate cancers) (International Journal of Oncology 35: 387-391, 2009).
The majority of N-linked glycosylation of proteins occur in secretory and membrane proteins. This typical N-glycosylation of a protein takes place upon entry of the protein into the lumen of endoplasmic reticulum (ER), where there is a transfer of carbohydrate moiety to asparagine residue present in the protein. In bacteria, N-glycosylation can occur independently of the protein traslocation. Here, Reddy and his group find that such protein modifications can also occur even in eukaryotic cells. They show that transcriptional cofactor CBP interacts with BRCA2 protein and mediates its N-glycosylation both in vitro and in vivo. This is the first report that a transcription cofactor like CBP may be involved in protein translocation-independent N-glycosylation.
Reddy predicts that this CBP-mediated post-translational modification may be a signal for degradation of CBP interacting proteins. Interestingly, BRCA2 protein is known to be ubiquitinated and degraded by the proteosomal pathway. Reddy is presently testing this hypothesis. Since CBP cofactor interacts with many onco-proteins, tumor suppressors and transcription factors, such a signal may be vital to regulate the expression of these interacting proteins which play an important role in cell growth, differentiation and cell death.
Therefore, this post-translational N-glycosylation can have global effect on gene function, cell growth and differentiation. Micro deletions, chromosomal translocations and point mutations in CBP are linked to congenital developmental disorder, Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome (RTS), neurogenerative diseases and cancer. It is possible that deregulation of CBP-mediated glycosyltransferase is associated with development of RTS, neurogenerative diseases, and cancers.
Other researchers participating in this study include Veena N Rao, Ph.D., professor and co-director of the Cancer Biology Program and Georgia Cancer Coalition distinguished cancer scholar; Habibur Siddique, Ph.D.
This work was funded by Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar Award to Reddy and Rao, MSM/UAB/TU U54 partnership, NIH RO1 and DOD grant awards to Reddy.
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MSM RESEARCHERS SOLVE A MAJOR BREAST CANCER PUZZLE
Atlanta – March 16, 2009 Morehouse School of Medicine’s (MSM) researchers have solved one of the biggest puzzles in breast cancer research – how and why BRCA1 dysfunction results in tissue-specific breast and ovarian cancers. The health implications of this study in cancer health disparities are truly immense.
According to the results by Veena N. Rao, Ph.D. professor and co-director of the Cancer Biology Program, in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of MSM, Georgia Cancer Coalition distinguished cancer scholar, the paper reveals why women with alterations in the BRCA1 gene often develop Estrogen-receptor negative breast cancers, which could potentially lead to function-based cellular assays that can validate their risk for developing these aggressive breast cancers, where she served as senior author, will be published in the Apil 2009 online issue of International Journal of Oncology, Vol.34, No 4.
The study suggests for the first time that the reason women with BRCA1 dysfunction get hormone-responsive cancers like breast and ovarian is that BRCA1 regulates the dynamic cycles of SUMO and Ubiquitin modifications required for Estrogen receptor-alpha turn over and deregulation of this molecular switch due to lack of BRCA1 results in Estrogen receptor-negative & positive breast cancers.
BRCA1 dysfunction results in hereditary and sporadic breast cancers. Majority of the women with BRCA1 mutations are estrogen receptor-negative, progesterone receptor-negative and HER-2 receptor-negative (Triple Negative breast cancers).TN breast cancers are highly aggressive, more common in young African-American women, have higher rates of distant metastasis and currently there are no targeted treatments against these cancers. There is significant overlap between TN breast cancers & BRCA1 associated breast cancers that suggests that dysfunction in the BRCA1 pathway may be responsible for the development of these cancers.
Rao’s team has previously identified two short forms of BRCA1 protein named BRCA1a and BRCA1b, which are expressed at reduced levels in breast and ovarian cancers. BRCA1a and BRCA1b differ from BRCA1 in having an in frame deletion of majority of the exon 11 sequences that comprise 60 percent of the BRCA1 coding region. BRCA1b has an additional deletion of exon 9 and 10 sequences. They have previously shown that inhibition of expression of this protein in normal cells results in cancer and high level of expression of which results in cell death and growth inhibition of TN breast cancers, ovarian and prostate cancers.
The researchers have found SUMO-E2-conjugating enzyme Ubc9 to be a new binding partner for BRCA1, BRCA1a and BRCA1b proteins. Mutation in the Ubc9 binding site as well as BRCA1 RING domain cancer-predisposing mutation (C61G) disrupted the ability to both bind as well as modulate Ubc9 mediated SUMO-dependent/independent estrogen-induced ER-alpha transcriptional activity in breast cancer cells.
The researchers have shown for the first time BRCA1 protein to function as a novel SUMO-1 and Ubc9-dependent E3 ubiquitin ligase for ER-alpha. These studies show that BRCA1 represses levels of ER-alpha by promoting its degradation. BRCA1 belongs to a new family of RING-finger proteins that link both the SUMO and Ubiquitin pathways. “We believe that binding of SUMO-tagged ER-alpha to Ubc9 could serve as a signal for BRCA1 proteins to target it for degradation and impairment of this function can results in breast and ovarian cancers” says Rao. “Our future efforts will be geared towards studying BRCA1 protein function in a totally new direction.”
These findings uncover the paradox as to why BRCA1 dysfunction leads to TN breast cancers as well as develop novel targeted therapies based on enhancing the degradation of stalled ER-alpha to reinitiate transcription offers a promising method for the treatment of these ER-negative breast cancers.
Other researchers participating in this study include Shyam P. Reddy, Ph.D., professor and co-director of the Cancer Biology Program and Georgia Cancer Coalition distinguished cancer scholar; Jiang Xu, M.D., and Tameka Watkins, M.S.
Rao received the 2005 Science Spectrum Emerald Honors Senior Investigator Award, the 2006 Science Spectrum Trail Blazer Award, the 2007 Women of Color in Technology Research Leadership Award, and the 2008 North American Konkini Association Outstanding Achievement in Science Award. Recently she was appointed as an editorial board member of the Open Breast Cancer Journal.
The technologies dealing with the novel cell-based assays and other related technology developed in Rao’s laboratory at MSM will be available for commercialization.
This work was funded by Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar Award.
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MOREHOUSE SCHOOL OF MEDICINE SCHOLAR AWARDED $525,000 DOD AWARD FOR PROSTATE CANCER RESEARCH
Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) will be able to continue its revolutionary research on prostate cancer – a disease that killed more than 27,000 men in the United States in 2006 – thanks to a new grant by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).
Georgia Cancer Coalition (GCC) Distinguished Cancer Scholar E. Shyam P. Reddy, Ph.D., professor and co-director, Cancer Biology Program, MSM Department of
Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence at Grady Health System and has received a $525,000 grant from the DOD to continue his groundbreaking work on prostate cancer.
African-American males are 1.7 times more likely to develop, and two to three times more likely to die
from prostate cancer than White males. Th us, African-American males within the United States are affected
disproportionately by prostate cancer compared to White males. One of the goals of the DOD program is to
identify features of molecular pathways that diff erentially affect African-American males compared to White males.
The ERG gene discovered by Reddy and Veena N. Rao, Ph.D., co-director of the Cancer Biology Program,
is involved in 60 to 80 percent of prostate cancers. Reddy and his colleagues (Rao; Roland Matthews, M.D.;
Yasuo Fujimura, Ph.D.; Ganapathy K. Bhat, Ph.D.; and Shubhalaxmi Kayarthodi) developed a novel cell
based assay to assess the function of ERG proteins. Using this novel assay, Reddy identifi ed a novel targeted
therapeutic agent that inhibits ERG function and also functions as an anticancerous agent against prostate
“This award gives us an opportunity to study the mechanism of action of this novel drug, which may lead to
the cure of prostate cancer,” said Reddy. “It also will enable us to develop more potent drugs that are targeted
against prostate cancer.”
Reddy will use the award to test the novel drug in preclinical trials. Th e studies will not only explain the
molecular mechanism of activation of the ERG gene in human prostate cancers, but also provide clues for
Reddy and Rao also have identifi ed several other novel drugs that function as targeted therapeutic agents
against a variety of cancers including prostate, pancreatic, ovarian, colorectal and triple negative breast cancer. E. Shyam P. Reddy, Ph.D.
“We take this opportunity to thank the GCC for its support and encouragement. Without the GCC Distinguished Cancer Scholar award, we would not have discovered these novel drugs,” said Reddy. “We are truly grateful to GCC for standing up for our cancer research. Th ese novel targeted therapeutic agents will also help to reduce health disparities seen among minorities, which supports the mission of Morehouse School of Medicine.”
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MOREHOUSE SCHOOL OF MEDICINE SCHOLAR AWARDED $1MILLION NIH GRANT
Atlanta (January 21, 2009) − New therapeutic strategies to target breast cancer − the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women and the second most deadly − are being developed at Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) thanks in large part to Ruben Rene Gonzalez-Perez, Ph.D., assistant professor in the MSM Department of Microbiology, Biochemistry and Immunology. A Georgia Cancer Coalition (GCC) Distinguished Cancer Scholar, Dr. Gonzalez has been awarded a $1 million grant to continue work on strategies that primarily target postmenopausal and obese women.
The five-year grant was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
Obesity has become a pandemic; particularly in western countries. It is characterized by high levels of leptin, an adipocytokine primarily linked to energy balance that also has pro-proliferation, pro-angiogenic, and proinflammatory effects on breast cancer. Higher levels also positively correlate with both the metastasis and lower survival rates of breast cancer patients.
“Despite accumulating evidence suggesting a positive correlation between leptin levels, obesity, postmenopause and breast cancer incidence, our current knowledge on the mechanisms involved in these relationships is still incomplete,” said Gonzalez. “Our continued research will expand our limited knowledge on the roles leptin plays, and could generate essential data for new therapeutic strategies to target breast cancer − particularly for postmenopausal and obese women. Inhibition of leptin signaling in such instances might serve as a preventative or adjuvant measure.”
Gonzalez said this investigation could open new avenues for prevention and/or treatment of breast cancer. “These studies could generate toward a Rapid Access to Intervention Development project (RAID-NIH) for breast cancer prevention, and could be particularly advantageous for those populations at higher risk for breast cancer.”
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MOREHOUSE SCHOOL OF MEDICINE RESEARCHER PICKED FOR BREAST CANCER JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD
(Feb 16,2009) Dr. Veena N. Rao, co-director of the Cancer Biology Program and Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar at Morehouse School of Medicine’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, has been selected to serve on the editorial board of The Open Breast Cancer Journal.
Rao and co-investigators last year used a gene therapy to introduce a protein into triple-negative breast, ovarian and prostate cancers in order to show whether the protein stops tumors from developing.
“Triple negative breast cancers are more common among young African-American and Hispanic women, and currently there are no effective treatments against these cancers,” said Rao, according to a press release. “Results from these studies will provide new treatments in the future for one of the biggest needs in breast cancer research.”
Rao joins The Open Brest Cancer Journal, one of nearly 200 other peer-reviewed open access journals launched by science publisher Bentham. The online publications are free for anyone to view.
“This new online publication is truly international in scale and is free and readily available to a worldwide audience,” according to Rao. “This is an outstanding resource especially for researchers belonging to minority institutions that have limited funding available to subscribe to scientific journals. This access to cancer research information will assist in getting critical and credible preventative and treatment options to millions of people,” she added.
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EMORY ANNOUNCES NEW DIRECTOR OF GYNECOLOGIC ONCOLOGY
ATLANTA (Jan, 2009) - Sharmila Makhija, MD, has joined Emory University School of Medicine and the Emory Winship Cancer Institute as director of gynecologic oncology. Makhija comes to Emory from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) where she served as associate professor of gynecology/oncology and associate scientist in the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“Dr. Makhija is a dedicated mentor and teacher as well as an exceptional clinician,” says Sara Berga, MD, chair of Emory’s department of gynecology and obstetrics. “She is internationally recognized for her efforts in cancer prevention. Her arrival augments our ongoing collaborations with the Emory Winship Cancer Institute and expands our portfolio of cutting-edge therapies for women with cancer.”
She is a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Clinician and Scholar and currently serves on the National Institutes of Health Clinical Oncology Study Section. Makhija is an active member of the HIV Prevention Trials Network, the International Society of Gynecologic Cancer and serves as an Ovarian Cancer grant reviewer for the U.S. Department of Defense.
Makhija earned her medical degree at UAB, completed a residency in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Louisville Hospital in Kentucky and a fellowship in gynecology oncology at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
“We are very excited to announce Dr. Makhija’s appointment,” says Ira Horowitz, MD, medical director for Emory University Hospital and a gynecologic oncologist. “She is an exceptional and caring physician as well as an innovative and collaborative scientist.”
Brian Leyland-Jones, MD, PhD, director of the Emory Winship Cancer Institute, says that Makhija brings a wealth of experience to an already strong faculty. “Dr. Makhija is a gifted clinician and scientist, and the entire cancer institute will benefit from her presence here,” says Leyland-Jones.
Makhija’s research interests include chemo-resistance in ovarian cancer and the development of novel, targeted therapeutics including monoclonal antibodies and gene therapies for ovarian cancer. Additional research interests include the extension of cervical cancer clinical trials to underserved women, particularly in India, as well as education and participation in the HIV Prevention Trials Network.
She has published numerous peer-reviewed scientific papers and review articles in journals including International Journal of Oncology, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Oncogene and Women’s Oncology Review.
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NEW TECHNIQUE IMAGES TUMOR VESSEL LEAKINESS TO PREDICT BREAST CANCER CHEMOTHERAPY OUTCOME
Chemotherapy is an integral part of modern cancer treatment, but it's not always effective. Successful chemotherapy depends on the ability of anticancer drugs to escape from the bloodstream through the leaky blood vessels that often surround tumors.
Predicting chemotherapy's efficacy could save thousands of individuals from unnecessary toxicity and the often difficult side effects of the treatments.
In a study published in the February issue of the journal Radiology, researchers describe a technique for determining the "leakiness" of tumor blood vessels using a simple digital mammography unit. The researchers designed nanometer-sized capsules containing a contrast agent that could only leak into tumors with blood vessels that were growing and therefore leaky. The digital mammography-based quantification of "leakiness" is closely correlated to the ability of a clinically approved chemotherapy agent to enter the tumor, allowing the researchers to predict the agent's therapeutic efficacy.
"We developed a quantitative way to measure the leakiness of the blood vessels, which is directly linked to the amount of drug that gets to the cancer and in turn determines effectiveness," said Ravi Bellamkonda, a professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. "By simply measuring how much contrast agent reaches the tumor, we can predict how much of a clinically approved chemotherapeutic will reach the tumor, allowing physicians to personalize the dose and predict effectiveness."
In some cases, one chemotherapy drug may not be effective in treating the tumor, but this new technique allows oncologists to investigate other drugs sooner since they know the drug is reaching the tumor. Studies are currently underway to determine if mammography can predict the optimal dose of a wide range of breast cancer chemotherapeutics.
Bellamkonda and Coulter Department postdoctoral fellow Efstathios Karathanasis collaborated on this study with Ioannis Sechopoulos, an assistant professor in radiology at Emory University; Andrew Karellas, a former professor in the Emory University Winship Cancer Institute currently at the University of Massachusetts Medical School; and Ananth Annapragada, an associate professor of health information sciences at the University of Texas, Houston. The project was funded by the National Science Foundation and Georgia Cancer Coalition.
For the study, a long-circulating nanometer-scale liposomal capsule filled with iodinated contrast agent was injected into rats with six-day-old breast cancer tumors. For the next three days, the researchers collected digital mammography images of the animals and compared the pre- and post-injection grayscale intensity values to study the dynamics of how the contrast agent accumulated in the tumor over time.
"During the three-day time course, some tumors exhibited a rapid and significant increase in image brightness, meaning the contrast agent was accumulating in the tumor, whereas other tumors showed a slow and low increase," said Bellamkonda, who is also a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scholar.
While the brightness of the tumors in the images changed significantly, no variations were observed in non-tumor areas or in the tumors of animals that did not receive the contrast agent. Immediately after the imaging was completed and the leakiness of each individual cancer vessel was quantified, the animals were intravenously injected with a clinically approved chemotherapy drug, liposomal doxorubicin.
Results showed that the chemotherapeutic drug slowed the progress of the tumor. The variability in uptake of the contrast agent by the tumors, as measured during the three-day imaging sessions, provided an accurate prognosis of the effect of liposomal doxorubicin on tumor growth rate.
"When we plotted the post-treatment tumor growth rate versus the intensity of leakiness, there was a significant and strong correlation," noted Bellamkonda. "The tumors in which the nanocarrier leaked out and accumulated the most in the tumors during the initial three-day test were the ones that responded best to the treatment."
To verify that the intensity changes in the images were caused by the nanocarrier and not endogenous changes in the tumor tissue, liposomal probes tagged with a fluorescent dye were injected into the animals. By looking at histological tumor sections, the researchers showed that the location of the increased image brightness and the fluorescent dye were the same.
"This study showed that higher uptake of the probe by the tumor related to leakier vasculature and suggested a better therapeutic outcome of liposomal doxorubicin," said Bellamkonda. "Imaging the integrity of the tumor vasculature like this may allow cancer treatment to be more patient-specific and potentially spare patients from chemotherapy if it is not going to be effective."
While the goal of the study reported in the journal was not to induce tumor regression, the researchers plan to investigate whether the liposomal probes can be used for this purpose in the future. To further develop and commercialize these multi- functional probes, Bellamkonda and Annapragada founded a start-up company called Marval Biosciences, Inc.
The researchers also want to investigate whether the leakiness of tumor vasculature represents a parameter that is useful for clinical diagnosis or tumor characterization.
"We want to study the molecular basis for blood vessel leakiness," said Bellamkonda. "We want to understand why there is variation in leakiness and chemotherapy effectiveness among individuals with tumors of the same type, size and stage."
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TEN YEARS AFTER TOBACCO SETTLEMENT, STATES FALLING SHORT IN FUNDING TOBACCO PREVENTION
WASHINGTON, Nov. 18 -- Ten years after the November 1998 state tobacco settlement, Georgia ranks 50th in the nation in funding programs to protect kids from tobacco, according to a national report released today by a coalition of public health organizations.
Georgia currently spends $3.2 million a year on tobacco prevention programs, which is 2.7 percent of the $116.5 million recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Other key findings for Georgia include: The tobacco companies spend more than $444 million a year on marketing in Georgia. This is 139 times what the state spends on tobacco prevention.Georgia this year will collect $393 million from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend less than 1 percent of it on tobacco prevention.
The annual report on states' funding of tobacco prevention programs, titled "A Decade of Broken Promises," was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
"Georgia is one of the most disappointing states when it comes to funding programs to protect kids from tobacco," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "On this 10th anniversary of the tobacco settlement, we call on Georgia's leaders to raise the state cigarette tax and use some of the new revenue to increase funding for tobacco prevention. Tobacco prevention is a smart investment that reduces smoking, saves lives and saves money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs."
Georgia's current cigarette tax of 37 cents per pack is 43rd in the nation and well below the national average of $1.19 per pack. Scientific studies have found that increasing cigarette prices is one of the most effective ways to prevent kids from smoking and encourage smokers to quit.
On Nov. 23, 1998, 46 states settled their lawsuits against the nation's major tobacco companies to recover tobacco-related health care costs, joining four states (Mississippi, Texas, Florida and Minnesota) that had reached earlier settlements. These settlements require the tobacco companies to make annual payments to the states in perpetuity, with total payments estimated at $246 billion over the first 25 years. The states also collect billions of dollars each year in tobacco taxes.
The new report finds that most states have broken their promise to use a significant portion of their tobacco money to fund programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit.
According to the report, the states in the last 10 years have received $203.5 billion in revenue from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes. But they have spent only 3.2 percent of this tobacco money - $6.5 billion - on tobacco prevention and cessation programs.
Other findings of the report include: In the current year, no state is funding tobacco prevention at CDC-recommended levels, and only nine states fund their programs at even half of the CDC recommendation.41 states and the District of Columbia are funding tobacco prevention programs at less than half the CDC-recommended amount. These include 27 states that are providing less than a quarter of the recommended funding.Total funding for state tobacco prevention programs this year, $718.1 million, amounts to less than three percent of the $24.6 billion the states will collect from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes. It would take just 15 percent of this tobacco revenue to fund tobacco prevention programs in every state at CDC-recommended levels.
The report warns that the nation faces two immediate challenges in the fight against tobacco use: complacency and looming state budget shortfalls. First, while the nation has made significant progress over the past decade in reducing smoking, progress has slowed and further progress is at risk without aggressive efforts at all levels of government. Second, the states are expected to face budget shortfalls in the coming year as a result of the weak economy. The last time the states faced significant budget shortfalls, they cut funding for tobacco prevention programs by 28 percent between 2002 and 2005. The cutbacks are a major reason why smoking declines subsequently stalled, and states should not make the same mistake again.
The report found that there is more evidence than ever that tobacco prevention programs work to reduce smoking, save lives and save money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs. Washington State, which has been a national leader in funding tobacco prevention, has reduced smoking by 60 percent among sixth graders and by 43 percent among 12th graders since the late 1990s. A recent study found that California's tobacco control program saved $86 billion in health care costs in its first 15 years, compared to $1.8 billion spent on the program, for a return on investment of nearly 50:1.
In Georgia, 18.6 percent of high school students smoke, and 11,300 more kids become regular smokers every year. Each year, tobacco claims 10,300 lives and costs the state $2.25 billion in health care bills.
More information, including the full report and state-specific information, can be obtained at www.tobaccofreekids.org/reports/settlements.
(NOTE: The CDC recently updated its recommended funding for state tobacco prevention programs, taking into account new science, population increases, inflation and other cost factors. In most cases, the new recommendations are higher than previous ones. This report is the first to assess the states based on these new recommendations.)
SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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GSU INVESTIGATOR RECEIVES ACS AWARD INVESTIGATING HOW TUMORS PLAY HIDE-AND-SEEK
November 12, 2008
ATLANTA — The body’s immune system is its line of defense against foreign invaders, from viruses to bacteria and tumors. But often tumors find ways to hide from the immune system, making it harder for the body to attack these deadly, swiftly multiplying cells.
Georgia State University’s Susanna Greer, assistant professor of biology and a Georgia Cancer Coalition researcher, received a four-year, $718,000 grant from the American Cancer Society in October to further explore proteins which play a role in allowing the body’s immune system to detect tumors.
Greer, a Georgia Cancer Coalition scientist, examines two proteins called Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) classes 1 and 2, which are in every cell of the body with the exception of red blood cells.
Each plays a similar role in bringing parts of foreign invaders like viruses or bacteria that have made it into the body — tipping off the immune system's response. Class 1 typically alerts the immune system of foreign bodies within the cell, and brings pieces of those invaders to the surface.
By contrast, MHC Class 2 works to let the immune system know of foreign bodies in the spaces between cells.
Once alerted, the immune system starts an inflammatory response to clear out the infection — as it would with any foreign body, Greer explained.
“MHC Class 1 expressed on a tumor cell will alert the immune system that there are things inside that tumor cell that are different," she said. "The immune system doesn’t care, because it just sees those cells as different, and will use the attack mechanism to kill the tumor cell.”
The problem is that tumors are good at turning off these proteins that sound the warning.
The American Cancer Society grant is going toward the investigation of a specific mechanism used to create MHC Class 2. Class 2 alerts the immune system to proteins shed by tumor cells in the space between cells, allowing the immune system to attack tumor cells.
The epigenetic code used to make MHCs proteins is very complex and bound into extremely tight packages within genes. Greer and her lab are exploring how this code is translated to regulate the production of MHC Class 2.
Although MHC proteins play important roles in getting the immune system to respond to foreign invaders, sometimes the problem is not that the proteins are kept off — but stay on, causing autoimmune disorders like multiple sclerosis where the immune system attacks the central nervous system. So, discoveries made in protein transcription can open up a new way to help treat not just cancer, but other disorders as well.
“The more that we find out about how these proteins are transcribed and translated, in addition to how you can turn on transcription and turn it off, there are some very relevant chemical applications,” Greer said.
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MUMC SCIENTIST AWARDED $50,000 CANCER RESEARCH GRANT
Savannah, DC, November 03, 2008 --(PR.com)-- The Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative has awarded a one-year, $50,000 grant to Memorial University Medical Center’s (MUMC) Dominique Broccoli, PhD. The grant will fund Broccoli’s sarcoma cancer research project.
Sarcoma is a cancer of the connective tissues, such as nerves, muscles, or blood vessels. Although rare in adults, it accounts for 15 to 20 percent of all children’s cancers. Sarcoma can occur anywhere in the body and is frequently hidden deep in the limbs. The subject of Broccoli’s research is liposarcoma, one of the most common of all soft-tissue sarcomas.
“This generous grant will allow our liposarcoma research to continue. We hope to identify genes that are useful diagnostic and/or prognostic markers. These markers may predict response to treatment and assist in the search for newer, better sarcoma therapies,” said Broccoli. Broccoli is a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar. She leads the cancer biology and genetics program in the William and Iffath Hoskins Center for Biomedical Research at MUMC. Broccoli is also a professor for Mercer University School of Medicine – Savannah Campus.
Bruce and Beverly Shriver, co-founders of the Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative, said they are delighted to fund the work of Dr. Broccoli and hope that her results will be stepping-stones to finding a cure for liposarcoma. The grant is dedicated to Rose Burt, a courageous, inspirational, and tireless advocate for sarcoma who had her own 21-year battle with liposarcoma. The funding of this grant is made possible, in part, by a generous gift from Laura Somerville, M.D., Ph.D.
The Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative of Ossining, New York, undertakes activities that help improve the quality of life for people dealing with sarcoma. Central to this mission are its goals of increasing public awareness of sarcoma and funding sarcoma-related research through a rigorous peer-review grant application process.
Memorial University Medical Center (MUMC) is a two-state healthcare organization serving a 35-county area in southeast Georgia and southern South Carolina. The system includes its flagship hospital, a 530-bed academic medical center; Memorial primary and specialty care physician networks; a major medical education program; business and industry services; and NurseOne, a 24-hour call center.
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THE FACES BEHIND CANCER STATISTICS
By Laura Raines
Pulse editor, Atlanta Journal Constitution
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Ever wonder how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Cancer Society get their cancer statistics? They come from cancer tumor registrars, who work behind the scenes in hospitals.
They are trained to collect and report timely, accurate and complete data to state and national cancer registries.
“Their work is little-known, but critical,” said Kevin C. Ward, CTR, president of the Georgia Tumor Registrars Association. “Cancer registrars bridge the gap between cancer patients and the many researchers and health professionals who need access to quality cancer data in order to make public health decisions related to cancer research, diagnosis and treatment.”
People come to the job from various backgrounds. Debra Fortier, RHIA, CTR, oncology data center coordinator for Gwinnett Medical Center in Lawrenceville, has experience in hospital quality assurance and with medical records.
“I had been a supervisor, manager and then director for a hospital medical records department and needed a change eight years ago,” Fortier said. “I knew of the registry early on in my career and took the job at Gwinnett Medical.”
Fortier and her team review pathology reports, looking for key words that might pertain to cancer. The data is downloaded into a database.
Cancer cases are assigned to a suspense file, where registrars begin collecting data about diagnosis, staging and prescribed treatment. After the tumor has been staged, a registrar will write an abstract to add the case to the cancer registry.
“We use a collaborative stage system that picks up every aspect of a tumor, including its markers, size, lymph node involvement, estrogen-negative or positive receptors, how far it [has] spread and margins,” Fortier said.
The registrars continue to collect information on patients through treatment and followup care for the rest of their lives. Even after death, patients stay on state and national registries.
After staging, registrars write an abstract with all the coded data and question-and-answer notes that include as much demographic and patient history information as possible. Things like a patient’s age, race, family history of cancer, smoking history, treatment outcome and complications are the kind of information researchers and others use to study the disease.
“Seeing clusters of people with the same kind of cancer in one area can help identify and solve problems,” Fortier said.
Gwinnett County, which started its registry in 1989, has almost 20,000 cases in its databank, and the numbers are growing rapidly.
“Our team abstracted 1,500 cases last year,” she said. “The number of cancer patients has doubled in the last 10 years in Gwinnett, because the county is growing. Our job has gotten bigger.”
Fortier submits all abstracts to the state once a month and those go into the National Cancer Registry once a year.
“We are constantly updating the data, and the standards and technology are constantly changing,” she said.
The work is painstaking, detail-oriented and never ending, but Fortier loves it.
“I get to see the big picture of how each abstract feeds into the trends of what we know about cancer and its treatment,” she said. “I’m a perfectionist, but I can see how important it is to code everything correctly. We’re dealing with people’s lives.”
At Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, Dolores McCord, RHIT, CTR, manager of oncology analytics, is a certified tumor registrar and a member of the oncology team.
“My job is slightly different, but then there is no such thing as a traditional cancer tumor registrar,” McCord said. “We come from medical records, pathology or administrative backgrounds and we all have different skills and responsibilities within our hospitals.”
McCord makes sure that the hospital is in compliance with reporting standards, and her office coordinates all oncology staff and committee meetings.
“At those meetings, the surgeons, oncologists, diagnostic radiologists and pathologists look at the radiology films and pathology slides that my team gathers to make recommendations about treatments,” McCord said. “Every specialist offers an opinion on each case, because they want to make sure each patient gets the best care for his [or her] circumstances.
“The director of oncology services relies on our data to help him plan oncology research and budget wisely. Are there enough cases to justify a clinical trial, for instance, or enough of one type of cancer to warrant buying new and costly radiation equipment?”
Making data work
Liver cancer is a growing specialty at Piedmont Hospital and the cancer data collected by registrars helps administrators focus on getting the right doctors on the team and providing the proper services.
“We’re now a referral center for liver cancers, because of our data,” McCord said.
McCord has found her spot in the field.
“I’ve worked with the tumor registry since 1989 and I love this work, because I do something slightly different every day,” she said. “I find the disease process interesting and I love statistics, so this is the perfect niche for me.”
When McCord started working on the cancer registry, there wasn’t much official training. She started with a medical records correspondence course, learned on the job and attended workshops.
Today, most cancer registrars have bachelor’s degrees and hold certification through the National Cancer Registrars Association.
It’s a challenge to keep up with the changing rules, standards and technology.
“The registrar’s prayer is, ‘Oh Lord, please let me finish this abstract before they change the rules again,’ ” McCord said with a laugh. “But I like the challenge and I can see how what we do affects what the hospital does.”
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2008 GEORGIA TREND HEALTHCARE HEROES
Meet four Georgia physicians and a hospital administrator who have donated their time and skills to make the state a healthier place.
This year’s Healthcare Heroes can trace to their youth a passion for their professions, and their generous contributions of time and talent have meant better healthcare for their communities, their state, and even the world at large.
Matt Mumber, MD
As long as he can remember, Matt Mumber has been asked to listen to and help others. “When I was very young, people would come to me and tell me their problems,” recalls Mumber, a radiation oncologist at Rome’s Harbin Clinic Radiation Oncology Center. “Once I knew I wanted to become a doctor, I decided I’d probably make a good psychiatrist.”
But, to the gratitude of his patients and cancer researchers everywhere, fate guided Mumber into the study and treatment of cancer. His work in that field has earned him widespread recognition, most recently as the 2008 recipient of the Georgia Cancer Coalition’s Hamilton Jordan Founder’s Award.
Mumber has become the wellspring of the data and details of integrative oncology. He describes the pursuit as “a way of looking at all aspects of a person, not just the physical but also the mental, emotional and spiritual, and also looking at all the aspects of everyone involved in the process – not just the patient, but their family and the physician and the individuals at all levels of their being.”
In 2002, Mumber received a fellowship in an inaugural program for the study of integrative medicine at the University of Arizona. The experience taught him something was missing from the integrative discipline. “It was obvious there weren’t any significant resources, from an academic perspective, on how to incorporate the look at the whole person, to look at the different modalities [and] to address the whole person.” So Mumber assembled 20 contributing writers and published Integrative Oncology: Principles and Practice, a medical textbook.
Mumber was a founder of Cancer Navigators, Inc., a nonprofit that offers cancer patients in three northwest Georgia counties access to supportive services. He also organized a partnership in Floyd County to help develop a statewide evidence-based cancer quality measurement program.
Mumber says his passion for improving care is rooted in the childhood memory of his mother’s struggle with breast cancer. “She’s doing great now,” he says. But at the time “cancer” was a word that was whispered. “I was raised a Catholic, and I guess I always felt like I had a calling to do something in a more counseling or priestly role,” he says.
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THE GARRY BETTY FOUNDATION AND V FOUNDATION ANNOUNCE A UNIQUE PARTNERSHIP TRIANGLE
CARY, N.C. – The V Foundation for Cancer Research, one of the nation’s leading cancer research fundraising organizations, is proud to announce a partnership with The Garry Betty Foundation. The organizations are joining forces to raise funds throughout the United States to benefit cutting-edge cancer research opportunities.
“In the last few years, The V Foundation has placed an increased emphasis on identifying organizations with which we can collaborate in funding research projects,” says Nick Valvano, CEO of The V Foundation. “By combining the efforts of two organizations who share the same mission, such as The V Foundation and The Garry Betty Foundation, we have developed a powerful synergy in achieving our common goal.”
The Garry Betty Foundation was founded by Garry Betty, who served as president and CEO of EarthLink from 1996 to 2007 and transformed if from a small regional internet service provider (ISP) with fewer than 100,000 customers to a national brand with more than five million subscribers. Garry was a leader in the Atlanta business community as well as the international technology community. Betty passed away in early 2007, just a short time after he was diagnosed with cancer, but was successful in establishing The Garry Betty Foundation to share his experience with the illness and further research to find a cure for the disease.
“We are extremely pleased to join forces with the V Foundation to fight this terrible disease” say Kathy Betty, Garry’s widow and CEO of The Garry Betty Foundation. “Garry never met Jimmy Valvano but he loved ACC basketball and admired Jimmy for his success at North Carolina State. He attended some of the V Foundation events prior to his diagnosis and believed in the important work they were doing”. Continues Betty, “Garry started his foundation to find a cure for cancer and I know he would be very excited about this partnership and the power of leverage between the organizations”.
The first initiative of this collaboration is working with the Georgia Cancer Coalition to fund The Gary Betty/V Foundation Chair of Cancer Nanotechnology position at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. All research grants funded by this effort will be named the Gary Betty/V Foundation Research Grant.
“This innovative approach to fighting cancer by funding leading-edge cancer research is one of the most creative I have ever seen,” said William J. Todd, President and CEO of the Georgia Cancer Coalition. “The Garry Betty Foundation and the V Foundation should both be very proud of the good stewardship of precious funds that they have shown by leveraging their investments in such a novel way.The Georgia Cancer Coalition is pleased to be a party to this effort to support promising cancer nanotechnology research at Georgia Tech by bringing our $1.75 million to the table to build a research team of real significance. This is multi-party collaboration with a united vision at its very best,”
The V Foundation will provide marketing, administrative, and scientific support for The Garry Betty Foundation. The two organizations will collaborate to raise money for cancer research focused on finding meaningful cures and supporting individuals and families who are stricken with the disease.
For more information about The Garry Betty Foundation, log on to www.thegarrybettyfoundation.org. For more information about The V Foundation for Cancer Research, log on to www.jimmyv.org or call 1-800-4JimmyV.
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UGA WINS $9.2 MILLION NCI STEM CELL GRANT
Aug 4, 2008, Athens, Ga. – A research group led by Stephen Dalton, professor and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar of Molecular Biology at the University of Georgia, has been awarded $9.2 million as part of a major new research grant by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health.
Dalton’s group, headquartered in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology, will address the molecular underpinnings of the early steps that stem cells take in becoming specialized cell types. The scientists will also seek to identify the genetic and protein modification patterns that accompany this process of differentiation.
The new grant in UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences is part of $27 million in funding awarded to the University of Wisconsin, UCLA and UGA that NIGMS has added to its ongoing effort to uncover the basic biology of human embryonic stem cells.
“Our program will offer training for scientists seeking to gain expertise in the specialized techniques needed to work with embryonic stem cells and will serve as a source of reagents, technical support and methodology development,” said Dalton, who is also a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scholar and a member of UGA’s developmental biology program.
The results of all three new programs are expected to deepen existing knowledge of the unique properties of stem cells and will be important to researchers trying to develop stem-cell-based therapies.
“This program project grant is important for a number of reasons,” said David Lee, UGA vice president for research. “Certainly it highlights the expertise in stem cell biology and glycomics at the University of Georgia. But perhaps more important, it is cleverly designed to promote stem cell research throughout the Southeast. One of the core facilities funded by the grant is specifically tasked with developing new stem cell technologies that will be disseminated to researchers across the region via the new Southeast Stem Cell Consortium, which Professor Dalton chairs. We are extremely pleased by the leadership provided by Dr. Dalton in an area that offers so much promise for human health.”
Dalton’s position as a leader in stem-cell research has been solidified with the recent establishment of the Southeast Stem Cell Consortium. The consortium has strong interests in the basic biology of stem cells, their utility as a model for studying mammalian development and their potential as a cell source to develop therapies for degenerative disease and repair of chronic injury. Focus areas include diabetes, cardiovascular disease, spinal cord injury and neurodegenerative disease.
“This is an innovative program that focuses on an understudied area of stem cell biology,” said Marion Zatz, Ph.D., who oversees stem cell grants at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health. “By looking at how proteins are modified by sugar molecules as stem cells differentiate, Dalton’s team could help us understand how the many distinct cell types in our bodies are formed.”
Dalton’s research group at UGA focuses on the uses of stem cells in understanding diabetes and cardiovascular disease. One current project involves finding ways to use stem cells to repair the human heart.
“The heart is an organ that doesn’t repair itself,” said Dalton. “But we’re studying a resident population of stem cells that have the capability of dividing and turning into cardiac cells. Theoretically, they could be used to help the heart repair itself after a heart attack.”
The new programs join an NIGMS effort launched in 2003 to explore the basic molecular and genetic features of human embryonic stem cells. Prior to the latest awards, the initiative has included six exploratory centers, two multidisciplinary research programs and several independent research projects and supplements.
To learn more about the Southeast Stem Cell Consortium see http://www.sestemcells.uga.edu/.
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DCH OPENS $1.2 MILLION GRANT PROGRAM FOR BREAST CANCER
ATLANTA (June 9)– The Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) is improving breast cancer services for the state’s uninsured population through the Georgia ACTS (Access,Care, Treatment and Services) Breast Cancer Grant Program. Part of a statewide,
strategic initiative, the program will provide grants to organizations offering breast cancer health promotion, screening and treatment to indigent women.
“Every year more than 1,000 women in Georgia die of breast cancer,” said James Peoples, Executive Director of DCH’s Office of Health Improvement. “This program represents our part in preventing another life joining this statistic. We are empowering
community-based organizations to make a significant contribution to the reduction of breast cancer disparities.”
The grant amounts will range from $25,000 to $50,000 for screening projects and up to
$300,000 for treatment projects. Community organizations applying for treatment grants must demonstrate strong, comprehensive partnerships with various health care providers to provide breast cancer services to underserved populations.
Breast Cancer is the sixth leading cause of death for women in the United States. Early
diagnosis and advances in treatment have dramatically improved breast cancer survival
rates. Community programs supported by Georgia ACTS grants will ensure that more women benefit from medical science and cancer treatment advances.
“Breast Cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in White, Black, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native women,” said Dr. Rhonda Medows, DCH Commissioner. “Although cancer deaths have declined for both Whites and African Americans living in the United States, African Americans continue to suffer the greatest burden of this disease, to be diagnosed later and are more likely to die from
DCH’s Office of Health Improvement and the Georgia Women’s Health Advisory Council
will administer the grant program. DCH will accept applications until July 21, 2008.
For more information about the grant program, visit
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MOREHOUSE SCHOOL OF MEDICINE INITIATES MASTER’S PROGRAMS IN BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES
(April 15, 2008) Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) is accepting applications for two programs in the medical school’s new Master’s Program in Biomedical Sciences. The MSM board of trustees, during its Spring 2008 meeting, approved the development of the programs — the M.S. in Biomedical Research and M.S. in Biomedical Technology.
MSM already has an active and successful Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences program focused on training leaders in scientific research and education.
The M.S. in Biomedical Research program provides a core-didactic and thesis-based curriculum for college graduates seeking a terminal, thesis-based Master’s degree or considering the pursuit of doctoral degrees in research or the health sciences. The program will allow students to obtain a graduate degree; further explore career options in the biomedical sciences; document their ability to handle graduate-level coursework; and conduct a mentored research project in an area of interest to them. The M.S. in Biomedical Technology program is a non-thesis program for college graduates preparing for, or already engaged in, biomedical technology careers. The classroom curriculum is similar to that of the thesis-based program. Beyond the classroom, students in this program will focus on gaining experience in developing and applying experimental design, and a variety of state-of-the-art methods and instrumentation. A key goal of this program is to enhance the biotechnology workforce serving the expanding state and national academic and corporate research enterprise.
“Job opportunities in academic, government and corporate biomedical sciences have remained strong even in tough economic times,” said Douglas Paulsen, associate dean for graduate studies at Morehouse School of Medicine. “We're excited to offer a new gateway to these opportunities for students from all backgrounds and to help create a biomedical science workforce that better reflects the increasing diversity of the general population.”
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TEST CAN REDUCE RECURRENCE OF BREAST CANCER
ScienceDaily (Feb. 28, 2008) — A new test that examines large sections of the sentinel lymph node for genes expressed by breast cancer could reduce the risk of recurrence and multiple surgeries, doctors say.
The GeneSearch Breast Lymph Node Assay, manufactured by Veridex, L.L.C., a Johnson & Johnson company, is being used at the Medical College of Georgia to examine half of the tissue in the sentinel lymph node, the first place breast cancer typically spreads. The sample represents more than 10 times the amount of tissue examined in traditional biopsies.
And because the test examines the tissue with molecular tools, it is more sensitive, says Dr. Zixuan (Zoe) Wang, molecular biologist and scientific director of MCG’s Georgia Esoteric and Molecular Diagnostic Labs, L.L.C.
“When we look at the tissue with the GeneSearch test, we are looking for excessive amounts of mamoglobin and cytokeratin 19, both genes that are expressed more in breast cancer tissue,” Dr. Wang says. “If those genes are present in excessive amounts, we know the cancer has metastasized.”
Done during a lumpectomy, the GeneSearch test uses molecular diagnostic methods to examine more tissue than traditional sentinel node biopsies, reducing the chance of false negative results, says Dr. Stephen Peiper, chair of the MCG Department of Pathology and Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Clinician and Scientist.
The sentinel node, located in the armpit, filters fluid from the breast.
“During a traditional sentinel node biopsy, a surgeon would remove a node, then the pathologist would cut that section in half and cut that section to a quarter of the original sample size,” Dr. Peiper says. “They then would cut wafer-thin slices from those sections, freeze and stain them, and look for cancer cells under a microscope. This technique, called frozen section, would be done during the lumpectomy surgery. If the tissue is positive for cancer cells, the surgeon removes more nodes from the patient, but if it is negative, the surgery is over.”
The problem with that type of test, he says, can come when pathologists review more tissue slices during a confirmatory second test, called a permanent section and done a day later.
Permanent section tests are done the day after surgery because the tissue is set with a fixative that causes proteins in cells to harden for better examination.
“The cancer cells may not have been present in the part of the node that we looked at the day before in the frozen section,” Dr. Peiper says. “But on the second day, we may find them in the other section. We perform both the traditional test and the new GeneSearch molecular test in parallel to provide the best care for our patients.”
The larger the sample, he says, the better the chance of catching the cancer during the intraoperative test.
“If there are small amounts of cancer cells in the whole node, we may or may not see those with the traditional tests, because we only examine a small section of tissue,” he says. “With this technology, we increase the chance of detecting them.”
Nearly 20 percent of women with negative nodes confirmed by a traditional biopsy end up having a recurrence and metastasis, Dr. Peiper says.
“There is a higher false-negative rate with traditional sentinel node biopsies,” says Dr. Scott Lind, professor and chief of the MCG Section of Surgical Oncology. “If that happens, the patient has to come back in for another surgery to take out more lymph nodes that have likely harbored the breast cancer cells.”
In clinical trials, the new test correctly identified more than 95 percent of patients whose cancer had spread to their lymph nodes, according to Veridex, L.L.C.
"This will help us provide better care to patients and better overall treatment,” Dr. Lind says.
Adapted from materials provided by Medical College of Georgia.
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AJC STORY: STATE PUTS LITTLE INTO SMOKING CESSATION EFFORTS
By ALISON YOUNG
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
2/08/08: Georgia receives about $150 million a year from the 1998 tobacco manufacturers' settlement with the states. It spends just 2 percent of it on programs to prevent residents from smoking or to help them quit.
By spending just a small fraction of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends for tobacco control programs, the state has 214,000 more smokers than it might otherwise, according to new research.
"Throwing money doesn't solve problems, but investing in effective programs can," said Terry Pechacek, associate director for science at CDC's Office on Smoking and Health and a co-author of the study. "We have the ability now to end this epidemic. It is a matter of political will and social commitment."
Scientists at the Atlanta-based CDC and RTI International, a North Carolina research group, have found that there is strong and direct relationship between the amount of money states have spent on tobacco-control programs and how rapid a decline they've had in adult smoking rates.
Previous research has found that increasing the cost of cigarettes through state taxes reduces smoking. But the new study, published in the February issue of the American Journal of Public Health, found declines in smoking were directly related to the amount of funding given to tobacco-control programs — separate from cigarette prices.
Based on evidence of effectiveness, the CDC has for years recommended a variety of actions states should be taking. They include media campaigns designed to counter the effects of tobacco company marketing, expanding programs that help people get smoking-cessation counseling, eliminating cost barriers to treatment for tobacco use, and working with community organizations, schools, offices and places of worship to influence people's attitudes toward tobacco.
In Georgia, most of the $2.6 million the state spends on tobacco control goes to school anti-smoking programs and for a telephone counseling hotline to help smokers quit.
If all states had funded their programs at the minimal levels recommended by CDC, the researchers estimate there would have been 2.2 million fewer smokers nationwide. Researchers estimate funding at the optimal level would have resulted in 7.1 million fewer smokers by 2003.
In Georgia, the minimal and optimal levels would have translated into between 68,264 and 214,054 fewer smokers. About 20 percent of Georgians smoke, similar to the national average, CDC data show.
Yet despite the financial windfall from the 1998 master settlement with tobacco manufacturers — which will give states $206 billion over 25 years —few states are funding tobacco-control programs at even the minimal levels recommended by the CDC. As states have faced budget crises, they've increasingly turned to the tobacco funds to pay for other needs.
For fiscal year 2008, which ends June 30, Georgia has received $148.3 million in settlement funds. Just 2 percent went for smoking cessation and prevention. About 45 percent of the money went to general health care expenses, such as Medicaid hospital costs and mental retardation programs. Less than one-quarter of the money was spent on general cancer research, screening and treatment. And 32 percent went for rural economic development programs, budget documents show.
To effectively reduce rates of smoking and tobacco use, the CDC recommends that Georgia spend a minimum $42.6 million, and optimally spend $114.3 million this year.
Instead Georgia will spend only $2.6 million. Six years ago, Georgia spent $26.5 million of the settlement money on smoking-prevention programs.
One program that's taken a major hit has been the state's Tobacco Quit Line (1-877-270-STOP), a free, personalized counseling service that helps smokers quit.
Research has shown that such programs increase quit rates by 56 percent compared with smokers who try to quit on their own.
Dr. Stuart Brown, director of the Georgia Division of Public Health, said there is no longer any money to run media campaigns
about the dangers of smoking and direct smokers to the Quit Line.
In 2002, the line received nearly 23,000 calls. Last year, it got just 3,595, the division's records show.
"The media buys that drove people to the Quit Line have essentially gone away, and as a result, we're getting many fewer calls now than we did," Brown said.
Brown said his division requested an additional $5.6 million, for a total of $8.2 million in funding this year. He said the additional funds would have gone to promote the Quit Line and provide services to the increased callers they would get, as well as to add some nicotine replacement therapies to the program. But Gov. Sonny Perdue did not include the additional money in his budget proposal, and funding remained at $2.6 million.
Still, Brown said state health officials are working to maximize the funds they have, working through schools and substance-abuse programs to reduce smoking as part of a comprehensive approach to promoting health and reducing risky behaviors.
Bert Brantley, Perdue's spokesman, said that the governor has to balance many financial needs in the state when making budget decisions. He said Perdue has focused on spending the tobacco settlement money on three main areas: health care, cancer research and bolstering rural economic development.
"There's a balance in the spending you see in those priorities," Brantley said.
But some advocates question how little of the settlement money goes to prevent and stop smoking — the leading preventable cause of premature death.
"I believe people wanted this money to go for tobacco-use prevention. And most people think that it is — but it's not," said June Deen, vice president of public affairs for the American Lung Association of Georgia. "It's a missed opportunity."
The Georgia Tobacco Quit Line is a free service for Georgians age 13 and older that provides a trained counselor to help tailor an individual quit process for each person. Call 1-877-270-STOP. Help in Spanish is available at 1-877-2NO-FUME; and for the hearing impaired at 1-877-777-6534.
The Quit Line is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. until midnight. It's closed Sundays.
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CLARK ATLANTA UNIVERSITY’S CENTER FOR CANCER RESEARCH AND THERAPEUTIC DEVELOPMENT RECEIVES $ 6.5 MILLION FROM THE NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH FOR PR
ATLANTA (October 4, 2007) – Clark Atlanta University today announced that the Center for Cancer Research and Therapeutic Development (CCRTD) at CAU was awarded a $6.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD), to establish a Center of Excellence
for Prostate Cancer Research, Education and Community Services.
The grant will support research, training and community outreach activities at CAU as they relate to prostate cancer in the African-American community. The funds will support three individual research projects and six pilot projects in the area of cell and molecular biology of prostate cancer. Funding will also be available to support scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students in the area of prostate cancer.
“In addition to outreach and research projects, the new center will provide initial funding to develop a community education component in prostate cancer and will establish a community-based educational program for raising awareness on prevention, screening, early detection and treatment of prostate cancer,” said CCRTD Director and GRA Eminent Scholar, Dr. Shafiq A. Khan. Dr. Khan will serve as principal investigator on the grant and serve as the director of the new center. “This grant will greatly support CCRTD’s mission and long history of carrying out productive basic research in cancer cell biology and offers continuous contributions to the development of successful therapeutic strategies to combat cancer.”
“I am most pleased that CAU’s Center for Cancer Research and Therapeutic Development’s reputation as a resource for strategies to combat a disease that disproportionately affects African-American men, has been recognized with a major grant from an organization with the prominence of the National Institutes of Health,” said Dr. Walter D. Broadnax, president of Clark Atlanta University.
“This grant will serve to support CCRTD in fulfilling its vision of becoming one of the best cancer research centers in the world by conducting leading-edge research, advancing human knowledge, training and developing scientists and developing community outreach programs that will impact the treatment of a disease that disproportionately affects African-American men.”
The activities associated with the grant will be executed in collaboration with Clark Atlanta University‘s Whitney M. Young, Jr. School of Social Work, Division of Communication Arts and Midtown Urology Educational Foundation.
Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among American men after skin cancer, and the incidence of prostate cancer among African Americans is the highest in the world. More than twice as many African-American men die of this disease when compared with Caucasian men. The onset of the disease in African- American men also occurs at an earlier age, and they usually develop more aggressive forms of prostate cancers. The reasons for this racial disparity in incidence and mortality in African-American men are not entirely clear but may involve both biological (genetic) and environmental reasons, such as differences in diets, lifestyle and socioeconomic background.
Established in 1999, the Clark Atlanta University Center for Cancer Research and Therapeutic Development (CCRTD) was established with the help of a grant from RCMI (Research Centers in Minority Institutions) Program at NIH/NCRR.
About Clark Atlanta University
Clark Atlanta University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia, 30033-4097: Telephone 404-679-4501) to award the Bachelor's, Master's, Specialist and Doctor's Degrees. The Carnegie Classification lists CAU as a Research University - High Research Activity. National business and consumer publications rank Clark Atlanta high among the best buys in American higher education.
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LUNG CANCER CELLS' SURVIVAL GENE SEEN AS DRUG TARGET
ATLANTA--One of the deadliest forms of cancer appears to carry a specific weakness. When a key gene called 14-3-3zeta is silenced, lung cancer cells can't survive
on their own, researchers have found.
The gene is a potential target for selective anti-cancer drugs, says Haian Fu, PhD, professor of pharmacology and of hematology and oncology at Emory
University School of Medicine and Emory Winship Cancer Institute.
The research results were published on line Dec. 27, 2007 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and are scheduled for publication in the
Jan. 8, 2008 print issue. The paper's first author is Zenggang Li, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Fu's laboratory.
Lung cancer kills more Americans annually than any other type of malignancy, according to the National Cancer Institute. Yet teatment options are very
limited, Dr. Fu says.
"The recent trend towards targeted therapies requires us to understand the altered signaling pathways in the cell that allow cancer to develop," he says.
"If you think about genes that are dysregulated in cancer as drivers or passengers, we want to find the drivers and then, aim for these drivers during drug discovery."
Dr. Fu and his collaborator, Fadlo Khuri, MD, deputy director of clinical and translational research at Emory Winship Cancer Institute, chose to focus on the
> gene 14-3-3zeta because it is activated in many lung tumors. In addition, recent research elsewhere shows that survival of lung cancer patients is worse if the gene is on overdrive in their tumors, Dr. Fu says.
The 14-3-3 genes are found in mammals, plants and fungi. In the human body, they come in seven varieties, each given a Greek letter. Scientists describe the
proteins they encode as adaptors that clamp onto other proteins. The clamping function depends on whether the target protein is phosphorylated, a chemical
switch that regulates processes such as cell division, growth or death.
> "We knew that 14-3-3 is important in controlling EGFR (epidermal growth factor
receptor) signaling, which is a main pathway driving lung cancer," Dr. Fu says.
In the PNAS study, the authors used a technique called RNA interference to
selectively silence the 14-3-3zeta gene. They found that when 14-3-3zeta is turned off, lung cancer cells become less able to form new tumor colonies in a laboratory test.
One of the most important properties of cancer cells is their ability to grow and survive without touching other cells or the polymers that connect them.
While the authors found that the cells with 14-3-3 zeta turned off do not grow more slowly, the cells are vulnerable to anoikis (Greek for homelessness), a
form of cell death that happens when non-cancerous cells that are accustomed to growing in layers find themselves alone.
Further experiments showed that 14-3-3zeta regulates a set of proteins called the Bcl2 family that control programmed cell death, and its absence upsets the
balance within the family.
"You can see how control of anoikis means 14-3-3zeta could play a critical role in cancer invasion and metastasis," Dr. Fu says. "The mechanistic question we
still haven't answered is: what makes zeta unique so that it canÕt be replaced by the others."
The finding has implications beyond lung cancer, in that 14-3-3zeta is also activated in other forms of cancer such as breast and oral, he notes.
"Dr. Fu and his team's findings unmask the role of 14-3-3 zeta in the survival advantage of lung cancer cells and their dependence on it," Dr. Khuri says.
"Targeting this critical molecule could lead to meaningful therapeutic progress."
Since 14-3-3zeta was identified as a promising target for drugs, Dr. Fu and his co-workers are making use of a robot-driven screening program at the Emory
Chemical Biology Discovery Center to sort through thousands of chemicals that may disrupt its interactions specifically.
They hope to identify these compounds rapidly and move them from bench into clinic testing to benefit patients.
Other authors were Jing Zhao, Yuhong Du and Hae Ryoun Park, all in Emory's Department of Pharmacology. Additional contributions came from Shi-Yong Sun and Leon Bernal-Mizrachi at Emory Winship Cancer Institute and Alastair Aitken from the University of Edinburgh.
The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, Emory's University Research Committee, Golfers against Cancer, the Georgia Cancer Coalition and the Georgia Research Alliance.
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MOREHOUSE SCHOOL OF MEDICINE CANCER RESEARCHER WINS DOD AWARD
Dec. 19, 2007 ATLANTA — E. Shyam P. Reddy, Ph.D., professor and co-director, Cancer Biology Program, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM), Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence (GCCE) at Grady Health System and Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar has received a $500,000 grant from the Department of Defense (DOD) to continue his groundbreaking work on prostate cancer. (Function based Therapeutic Strategies to Human Prostate Cancer, $532,000, 2008-2011).
The Erg gene identified by Reddy and his wife — noted MSM cancer researcher Veena Rao, Ph.D., also a Coalition Distinguished Scholar — is involved in the majority (60 to80 percent) of prostate cancers. Reddy and his MSM colleagues Rao, Roland Mathews, M.D. (another Coalition Distinguished Scholar), Yasuo Fujimura, Ph.D., Shubha Kayarthodi, M.S., and graduate student Wendell Fortson, developed a test to identify small molecules that interfere with the function of the Erg gene product. They identified two small molecules that inhibit the function of the Erg protein. These molecules were found to be anticancerous agents against prostate cancer. These agents do not have any major effect on normal cells — suggesting that the molecules function as targeted therapeutic agents. Reddy said he believes the molecules may have a great future as therapeutic agents targeted against prostate and other cancers.
Reddy’s pioneering work was recently recognized and awarded this three-year grant to take these drugs to the next level.
“This award is a great certification of our novel targeted drugs that are effective on prostate cancer cells. The award will lead us to more drugs targeted against prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, triple negative breast cancers, ovarian cancers and colorectal cancers. With this DOD grant, we are confident that we can win the war against a variety of cancers,” says Reddy.
Reddy and Rao also have identified several other novel drugs that function as targeted therapeutic agents.
“I am grateful for the Georgia Cancer Coalition’s support and encouragement, without which I would not have discovered these new drugs,” states Reddy.
Reddy, Rao and Mathews’ laboratories are located in the satellite site of MSM at the Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. This research is partly supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health NIH) RO1, MSM/UABU56/U54, as well as the Distinguished Cancer Scholar Award given to Reddy.
“We have found that some of our drugs are effective on Breast cancer (including triple negative cancers), pancreatic cancers, colorectal cancers, Ewing sarcoma and malignant melanoma of soft parts.. Two other drugs for pancreatic cancer were also tested in a pilot project at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Pancreatic Spore-funded center. No effective drugs are available to treat pancreatic cancer patients at this time. Therefore,our novel drugs have great potential in the future treatment of these cancers,” says Reddy.
“The Distinguished Cancer Clinicians and Scientists program is the cornerstone of the Georgia Cancer Coalition’s research agenda. We select nationally renowned cancer clinicians and scientists, like Dr. Reddy, whose discoveries hold promise for making significant progress against cancer. Our investment is maximized when scientists can bring additional grant funding to their university and our state. We believe that such research talent plays an important role in making Georgia a national leader in cancer research,” says Bill Todd, President and CEO of the Georgia Cancer Coalition.
Reddy and Rao are co-directors of the Cancer Biology Program in the OB/GYN department at MSM at the Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence at Grady. Mathews is the chairman of the OB/GYN department at MSM.
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CANCER GROUP MEETS WITH GINGREY
12/18/07 by Bryant Steele, Rome News-Tribune Business Editor
The Georgia Cancer Coalition briefed U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey on its statewide initiatives to treat, cure and prevent cancer at a meeting Monday morning at Harbin Clinic in Rome.
“We wanted Congressman Gingrey to understand what we’re doing throughout the state and especially Rome,” said Dr. Ken Davis, president and chief executive officer of Harbin Clinic.
Programs highlighted at Monday’s presentation included the Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education (Georgia Core), the Georgia Cancer Quality Exchange and the National Cancer Institute Community Cancer Centers Program (NCCCP).
The coalition recognizes that Gingrey is receptive to learning about its efforts because he was a practicing obstetrician and gynecologist for 26 years.
“Every family in this state has been touched in some way by cancer,” said Gingrey, R-Marietta.
“I commend Harbin Clinic and the Georgia Cancer Coalition for taking the lead in cancer research and treatment — not only to improve the health of Georgia’s citizens, but the health of our nation as a whole.
“Programs such as the Georgia CORE will help establish our state as a national center for cancer research and one of the premiere locations for cancer care.”
“The coalition has strong partners in Rome who are committed to improving cancer care through innovations in quality, research and technology. Together we are working to attract public and private investments to enable us to make these opportunities available not only in Northwest Georgia but across the state,” said Bill Todd, president and chief executive officer of the Georgia Cancer Coalition.
The Georgia Cancer Coalition is an independent, not-for-profit organization that unites government agencies, academic institutions, civic groups, corporations and health-care organizations in a concerted effort to strengthen cancer prevention, research and treatment in Georgia, with the ultimate goal of making Georgia one of the nation’s premier states for cancer care.
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EMORY RESEARCHERS IDENTIFY SIGNALING PROTEIN FOR MULTIPLE MYELOMA;
(ATLANTA) Sept. 20, 2007: Researchers at Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute are the first to discover a mechanism that plays a critical role in the multiple myeloma cell cycle and survival. Their research may result in identification of a new therapeutic target for treating multiple myeloma.
The results of the study appear in the September issue of Cancer Cell. Jing Chen, PhD, assistant professor of hematology and oncology at Emory Winship and a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar, is senior author on the paper. Sumin Kang, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at Emory Winship, is the paper's first author.
Multiple Myeloma is among the most common hematologic malignancies in patients over 65. About15 percent of multiple myeloma patients harbor a genetic abnormality called “t(4;14) chromosomal translocation” that causes over-expression of a tyrosine kinase called fibroblast growth factor receptor 3 (FGFR3).
Tyrosine kinases are molecules that act as biological switches inside cells, regulating processes including cell division and growth. Abnormal kinases have been identified as a driving force in many forms of cancer.
“We are interested in how FGFR3 mediates transforming signals,” says Dr. Chen. “We wanted to know which protein factors in cells are activated by FGFR3 and then transform normal cells to highly malignant cells. We identified Ribosomal S6 kinase 2 (RSK2), which is a protein factor that mediates signaling in cells as critical in downstream signaling of FGFR3 in myeloma cells.”
Dr. Chen and his colleagues are the first to discover a mechanism to “turn-on” RSK2 by FGFR3. FGFR3 impacts downstream proteins through phosphorylation at special “tyrosine” sites.
“We found that FGFR3 directly phosphorylates RSK2, which is a critical step in the process to activate (turn-on) RSK2,” says Dr. Chen.
The researchers observed that elimination of RSK2 proteins or shutting down RSK2 activity blocks FGFR3 transformation signaling in myeloma cells. This means FGFR3 requires RSK2 to transform normal cells.
“This is a beautiful model,” says Dr. Chen. “We are able to mark the connection between the oncogenic FGFR3 and its downstream protein kinase RSK2, which plays a critical role in regulation of cell cycle and survival. These findings extend our understanding of pathogenesis of multiple myeloma in a signaling basis.”
Collaborators on the project include Roberto Polakiewicz, PhD, and Ting-Lei Gu, PhD, both of Cell Signaling Technologies (CST), developers of the “PhosphoScan” technology, which enables investigators to identify hundreds to thousands of phosphorylated sequences and observe the global state of protein tyrosine phosphorylation in cells and tissues.
“Using this technology,” says Dr. Chen, “we identified RSK2 as a critical downstream signaling protein effector of FGFR3 in myeloma cells.” Other authors include researchers from the University of California at San Francisco, Harvard Medical School, Mayo Clinic and Novartis Pharma AG.
Dr. Chen and his colleagues also tested a drug called fmk that was designed by co-author Jack Taunton, PhD, at UCSF to specifically target RSK2 in treatment of human malignant myeloma cells from laboratory culture or primary samples from multiple myeloma patients, and saw that fmk effectively kills t(4;14) myeloma cells with abnormal over-expression of FGFR3.
“This study shows the potential utility of drugs that block the downstream effectors of mutant tyrosine kinases, and that these drugs are opening more doors to treating hematologic malignancies and cancers," explains Dr. Chen. In addition to the t(4;14) in multiple myeloma that is caused by abnormal over-expression of FGFR3, abnormality of FGFR3 has also been identified in human bladder and cervical cancers. The findings suggest, the authors write, that targeting RSK2 with RSK inhibitors such as fmk may be effective in treating t(4;14) multiple myeloma, as well as other diseases and cancers where mutant FGFR3 is the culprit.
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SANTORO RECIPIENT OF OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE AWARD
(ROME, GA) James Santoro, M.D., a Harbin Clinic Radiation Oncologist, has been selected as a recipient of the 2006 Cancer Liaison Physician Outstanding Performance Award given by the Commission on Cancer, a multidisciplinary program of the American College of Surgeons.
Dr. Santoro is one of 55 physicians nationwide to receive this award. The Cancer Liaison Physician Outstanding Performance Award recognizes those who provide extensive leadership and direction to the local Commission on Cancer approved cancer program.
Dr. Santoro was nominated for excellence in improving the quality of care delivered at his facility; contributing to the approval status of the cancer program; demonstrating cancer control leadership in the community; and serving as a champion and role model for other staff.
Dr. Santoro received his medical doctorate degree from the University of Bologna in Italy. He completed a residency at SUNY Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, NY and Mallinkrodt Institute of Radiology at Washington University in St. Louis, MO. Dr. Santoro completed a Research Fellowship at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, MA.
Dr. Santoro joined Harbin Clinic in 2005 and his office is located at Harbin Clinic Radiation Oncology, 321 W. Fifth St. in Rome. He is a member of the American Medical Association; American Society of Clinical Oncology; American Society of Therapeutic Oncology; and Tri-County Medical Society.
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EMORY WINSHIP CANCER INSTITUTE EARNS $12.5 MILLION GRANT
The National Cancer Institute has awarded a five-year, $12.5 million Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant in head and neck cancer to Emory University's Winship Cancer Institute. This is the first SPORE grant ever received in the state of Georgia.
SPORE grants are large, multidisciplinary federal grants that fund scientific research aimed at bringing new laboratory findings quickly to the clinic. They are highly competitive grants and are sought after by the most prestigious research and medical facilities across the country.
With an expected 40,000 new cases and 11,500 deaths in 2007, squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck accounts for four percent to five percent of all newly diagnosed cancers in the U.S. When the more than two-thirds of head and neck cancer patients first receive a diagnosis it is considered a locally advanced disease, which has a poor five-year survival rate after treatment with surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. According to recent National Cancer Institute statistics, southeastern states rank among the highest in the nation in head and neck cancer incidence.
"Head and neck cancer can be a devastating disease," says Dong Moon Shin, MD, professor of hematology and oncology at Emory Winship and principal investigator of the grant. "Our focus on this grant is to facilitate, critically review and rapidly move new discoveries to patients. Our goal is to decrease the morbidity, suffering, disability and death caused by this disease.
"Because of the large number of aging smokers and ex-smokers in the U.S. population, the incidence of aerodigestive cancers, including lung cancer and head and neck cancers, will remain high for the next two-to-three decades despite the overall decline in smoking," says Dr. Shin, a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar.
"This is an extremely important grant for Emory University and for Georgia," says Brian Leyland-Jones, MD, PhD, director of the Emory Winship and a GRA Eminent Scholar. "This SPORE grant is a testament to Emory Winship's position as a national leader in research and patient care, particularly in aerodigestive tract cancers. It is also important to note that Dr. Shin's grant received the highest score out of seven applicants."
There are only four other head and neck cancer SPORE grants in the U.S.: University of Texas MD Anderson, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins.
"The SPORE grant earned by Dr. Shin and his colleagues is an important milestone for scientific research at Emory University," says Michael Johns, MD, executive vice president of health affairs at Emory University and a head and neck cancer surgeon. "The National Cancer Institute continues to recognize the important work conducted at Emory Winship through awards such as this grant. Last year, Emory Winship earned a $7.9 million federal grant in lung cancer research."
The Emory Winship SPORE program will consist of four major translational research projects, which will test hypotheses about biology, prevention and novel therapies driven by molecular science and nanotechnology. The four main projects are:
Chemoprevention with Green Tea Polyphenon: Investigators will use a combination of green tea Polyphenon E, a chemical substance found i n plants, and Erlotinib (Tarceva), a growth factor inhibitor, to prevent advanced premalignant lesions of the head and neck. Preliminary studies show that the combination of the polyphenol, extracted from green tea, and Erlotinib together inhibits growth of SCCHN both in the laboratory and in animal models.
Targeting Death Receptors-Mediated Apoptosis for Head and Neck Cancers: Researchers will work to develop therapies aimed at blocking cellular pathways that allow metastatic cancer cells to proliferate.
Development of Novel Curcumin Analogs for the Treatment of Head and Neck Cancer: Curcumin is a principal ingredient in the Indian curry spice Tumeric. Curcumin has shown anti-cancer activitiy in earlier studies. While its anticancer effects are limited, curcumin does exhibit an ability to induce apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells without affecting healthy cells. In this project, a group of Emory researchers has modified the chemical structure of curcumin and tested its anti-cancer activity in the laboratory. "The analog we developed appears to be more potent than the original curcumin compound," says Shin. "This is very exciting because it was developed here at Emory by our own researchers." The project will test the anti-cancer effectiveness of the new analog in head and neck cancer cell lines. Eventually, researchers will develop a clinical trial to test its effectiveness.
Biodegradable Nanoparticle Formulated Taxol for Targeted Therapy of Head and Neck Cancer: Emory Winship and Georgia Tech investigators will work to develop a new class of biodegradable nanoparticles, which will be designed to carry the chemotherapy drug Taxol for targeted therapy of head and neck cancers. "One of the most important areas of nanotechnology research is development of new cancer drug delivery systems," says Shin. "Nanotechnology drug delivery techniques can potentially overcome current, non-specific drug delivery, in which the anti-cancer agents are delivered not only to cancer cells but to normal cells as well, causing unwanted side-effects."
Fadlo Khuri, MD, deputy director for translational research at Emory Winship and co-prinicpal investigator of the grant, says, "Emory investigators will work as a team and will collaborate with investigators from Head and Neck Cancer SPORES at other institutions. We earned this grant thanks to the exceptional science that will be conducted here; however, it's important to note that the NCI places great value on the strong commitment of support including space, recruitment, shared resources and matching funds from the Emory University School of Medicine, Emory's Woodruff Health Sciences Center, the Georgia Cancer Coalition and the Georgia Research Alliance. This grant truly represents a team effort." Khuri is a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar.
About Specialized Programs of Research Excellence: SPORE grants were established in 1992 to support translational research, which are studies that apply the lessons of the laboratory to patients and, conversely, use what is learned from patients to advance study of a disease. For more information, log onto the National Cancer Institute website at www.spores.nih.nci.gov
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NEW INITIATIVE TO STUDY THE GLYCOBIOLOGY OF CANCER COULD AID UNDERSTANDING OF CANCER RISK AND DETECTION: UGA AMONG PROJECTS FUNDED
(August 21): The National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is funding a new $15.5 million, five-year initiative to discover, develop, and clinically validate cancer biomarkers by targeting the carbohydrate (glycan) part of a molecule. Biomarkers are substances sometimes found in the blood, other body fluids, or tissues that measure biological processes, and in addition to genes and proteins, can be complex carbohydrate (sugar) structures that are attached to protein and lipid (fat) molecules.
Seven NCI-funded Tumor Glycome Laboratories are now searching for glycan-based biomarkers for melanoma, and breast, ovarian, lung, prostate, colon, and pancreatic cancers.
"Scientists have long recognized that certain sugar structures, which are attached to protein and lipid molecules, may be important as markers for cancer development," said NCI Director John E. Niederhuber, M.D.
"While this area has compelling scientific interest, its biological and chemical complexities have often discouraged investigation. Today, with the advent of advanced technologies to conduct protein and carbohydrate chemistry, research into this intriguing area has experienced renewed interest."
Numerous studies comparing normal and tumor cells have shown that changes in the glycan structures of cells correlate with cancer development. Glycans are extremely abundant, but recent advances in technology have only now allowed a systematic study of these structures. Many protein biomarkers also have glycan components and analysis of these two molecular structures together may improve the value of tests such as those for prostate-specific antigen (PSA), CA-125, and carcinoembryonic antigen, which are sometimes used in prostate, ovarian, and colon cancer detection, respectively.
The NCI's Tumor Glycome Laboratories are the principle component of the new trans-NIH Alliance of Glycobiologists for Detection of Cancer and Cancer Risk. The other components of the alliance are the Consortium for Functional Glycomics funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and several Glycomics and Glycotechnology Resource Centers supported by the National Center for Research Resources. The NCI's Early Detection Research Network (EDRN) is also an alliance member, providing support for design and statistical analysis, patient accrual, and collection of clinical specimens to facilitate validation studies using EDRN's existing components.
"Looking at different types of biomarkers and new ways to identify them is critically important to both the basic understanding of cancer and the ability to identify early cancer and risk for cancer," said Sudhir Srivastava, Ph.D., chief of the Biomarkers Research Group in NCI's Division of Cancer Prevention. "We believe this new Alliance of Glycobiologists will accelerate the pace of biomarker development and discovery." The project is headed by Karl Krueger, Ph.D., a program director in the Biomarkers Research Group in NCI's Division of Cancer Prevention.
The seven Tumor Glycome Laboratories projects funded by NCI are:
PROJECT TITLE: Discovery And Clinical Validation Of Cancer Biomarkers Using Printed Glycan Array
Margaret Huflejt, Ph.D.
INSTITUTION: Cellexicon, Inc., La Jolla, Calif.
OBJECTIVES OF PROJECT: Determine the diagnostic or prognostic anti-glycan auto-antibody signatures in patients. For breast cancer, determine how many years prior to diagnosis that progression to cancer can be predicted.
CANCER TYPE UNDER STUDY: Breast, Ovary, Lung, Melanoma
PROJECT TITLE: Immunogenic Sugar Moieties Of Prostate Cancers PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Denong Wang, M.D., Ph.D.
INSTITUTION: Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif.
OBJECTIVES OF PROJECT: Identify anti-glycan autoantibody signatures in prostate cancer patients.
CANCER TYPE UNDER STUDY: Prostate
PROJECT TITLE: Early Cancer Detection And Prognosis Through Glycomics PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Milos Novotny, Ph.D.
INSTITUTION: Indiana University, Bloomington, Ind.
OBJECTIVES OF PROJECT: Identify biomarkers from glycans released from serum glycoproteins and develop high-throughput platforms to measure biomarkers suitable for the clinic.
CANCER TYPE UNDER STUDY: Prostate, Ovary, Lung, Colon
PROJECT TITLE: Glycan Markers For The Early Detection Of Breast Cancer PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: William Hancock, Ph.D., Sc.D.
INSTITUTION: Northeastern University, Boston, Mass.
OBJECTIVES OF PROJECT: Identify breast cancer biomarkers based on aberrant glycan modifications on defined amino acid residues of serum glycoproteins CANCER TYPE UNDER STUDY: Breast
PROJECT TITLE: Tumor Glycomics Laboratory For Discovery Of Pancreatic Cancer Markers PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: J. Michael Pierce, Ph.D.
INSTITUTION: University of Georgia, Athens, Ga.
OBJECTIVES OF PROJECT: Identify glycoprotein and glycolipid biomarkers for pancreatic cancer in pancreatic ductal fluid that can also be found in serum. Develop assays for promising biomarkers.
CANCER TYPE UNDER STUDY: Pancreas
PROJECT TITLE: Autoantibodies Against Glycopeptide Epitopes As Serum Biomarkers Of Cancer PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Michael Hollingsworth, Ph.D.
INSTITUTION: University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Neb.
OBJECTIVES OF PROJECT: Determine auto-antibody signatures to mucin glycopeptides in pancreatic and breast cancer patients.
Cancer Type Under Study: Pancreas, Breast
PROJECT TITLE: Neu5gc And Anti-Neu5gc Antibodies For Detection Of Cancer And Cancer Risk PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Ajit Varki, M.D.
INSTITUTION: University of California San Diego, San Diego, Calif.
OBJECTIVES OF PROJECT: Expand on research showing that cancer patients express cell surface glycans containing the sialic acid N-glycolylneuraminic Acid (Neu5Gc) and produce autoantibodies to these structures.
Cancer Type Under Study: Lung, Pancreas, Ovary
For more information on the Tumor Glycome Laboratories and the NIH Alliance of Glycobiologists for Detection of Cancer and Cancer risk, visit:
-- The NCI's Division of Cancer Prevention website at:
-- The National Institute of General Medical Sciences Consortium for Functional Glycomics at , and
-- The National Center for Research Resources' Glycomics and Glycotechnology Research Centers at .
For more information about cancer, visit the NCI Web site at or call NCI's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) -- The Nation's Medical Research Agency -- includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit .
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NCI LAUNCHES A PILOT OF ITS COMMUNITY CANCER CENTERS PROGRAM
Atlanta, Georgia- July 14,2007 - Georgia is one of only 14 states in the country where community hospitals have been named by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to participate in a three-year pilot for the NCI Community Cancer Centers Program (NCCCP).
The state is proud to announce that St. Joseph’s / Candler in Savannah, Georgia, is one of the 14 sites named today by the NCI to participate in this pilot program.
St. Joseph’s / Candler’s oncology program, the Nancy N. and J.C. Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion( LCRP), will participate in the pilot phase of a new program that, if fully implemented, will help bring state-of-the-art cancer care to patients in community hospitals across the United States.
The program is designed to encourage the collaboration of private-practice medical, surgical, and radiation oncologists -- with close links to NCI research and to the network of 63 NCI-designated Cancer Centers principally based at large research universities.
Evidence from a wide range of studies suggests that cancer patients diagnosed and treated in such a setting of multi-specialty care and clinical research may live longer and have a better quality of life.
The pilot program will research new and enhanced ways to assist, educate, and better treat the needs of underserved populations—including elderly, rural, inner-city, and low-income patients—as well as racial and ethnic groups with unusually high cancer rates.
The proposal brought forth by St. Joseph’s/Candler’s LCRP included collaborations with the Georgia Cancer Coalition (GCC), a statewide cancer control initiative, as well as other Georgia community cancer facilities. Facilitated by the Georgia Cancer Coalition, SJ/C was able to develop clinical alliances with two other community cancer centers, allowing it to propose a program that would allow SJ/C to gather data and input from southeast, southwest and northwest Georgia. This information exchange from each region will provide collective experience and resources to demonstrate and provide evidence based approaches to meet the requirements of the NCCCP.
“Being selected to lead this program not only impacts Savannah but the entire state of Georgia,” states Paul P. Hinchey, SJ/C President and CEO. “By working with the Georgia Cancer Coalition as well as other prestigious facilities in Rome and Columbus, our state can make an enormous contribution to the treatment and eventual eradication of cancer. I can’t think of a more worthwhile endeavor and the Nancy N. and J.C. Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion is honored to accept this task through this pilot project.”
SJ/C proposal to the NCI included clinical affiliations with The Harbin Clinic in Rome, Georgia,and the John B. Amos Cancer Center in Columbus, Georgia. The Harbin Clinic is the largest, privately-owned, multi-specialty physician clinic in the state. It is also providing leadership in Exchange, serving as the clearinghouse for information on progress at the second demonstration site in Rome. The John B. Amos Cancer Center is a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary cancer center serving a 14-county service area in Southwest Georgia.
SJ/C and the GCC have already demonstrated that working collaboratively can show results. As part of the Georgia Cancer Quality Information Exchange’s first demonstration project, SJ/C developed a standardized framework or “toolkit” for providers and validated the use of the specific measurements in a clinical care delivery setting. The “Exchange” is an initiative to develop a method of measuring the quality of cancer care: from cancer prevention, to early detection, to cancer diagnoses, treatment, follow-up and palliative care. "In step with the National Cancer Institute, the Georgia Cancer Coalition is developing statewide alliances that support the building of clinical trials networks, biospecimen collection, information technology capability, cancer research and methods of effectively serving the uninsured.
The Georgia Cancer Quality Information Exchange has the potential of being the first statewide evidence-based cancer quality measurement program. This new model is a bridge between the academic medical centers and the community hospitals, where approximately 85% of cancer care is delivered," says Bill Todd, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Georgia Cancer Coalition.
The national pilot will begin at eight free-standing community hospitals and six additional locations that are part of national health care systems. The sites will be funded for a collective total of $5 million per year. An NCI panel of experts and an independent group of outside experts will set milestones, monitor progress, and evaluate success of the three-year pilot and then issue recommendations for a full-fledged program.
NCCCP pilot sites will study how community hospitals nationwide could most effectively develop and implement a national database of voluntarily-provided electronic medical records accessible to cancer researchers. The sites will also study methods of expanding and standardizing the collection of blood and tissue specimens voluntarily obtained from patients for cancer research.
“It is becoming clear that one of the greatest determinants of cancer mortality in the years ahead will be access to care,” said NCI Director John E. Niederhuber, M.D. “This program will succeed if it can bring the benefits of our latest science to people in the communities where they live.”
The Nancy N. and J.C. Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion (LCRP), a 56,000 square foot freestanding facility located in Savannah, Georgia, houses the complete continuum for cancer care from prevention and early detection through treatment, survivorship and palliative care. Access to national cooperative group trials is made possible through an affiliation with NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Care Center, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer & Research Institute. A recent partnership with the Medical College of Georgia enhances the overall program’s services through increased research opportunities and medical staff development.
For more information about the NCI Community Cancer Centers Program, please visit the home page at http://ncccp.cancer.gov
For more information about cancer, please visit the NCI Web site at http://www.cancer.gov, or call NCI's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).
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HOSKINS CENTER FOR BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH DEDICATED AT MEMORIAL HEALTH UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER IN SAVANNAH
SAVANNAH – October 11, 2007 -A new 60,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art cancer research and education facility – dedicated the William and Iffath Hoskins Center for Biomedical Research – celebrated its grand opening last week on the Memorial Health University Medical Center (MHUMC) campus. MHUMC is one of two teaching hospitals for the Mercer University School of Medicine.
"Mercer has been in partnership with Memorial Health University Medical Center since the mid-1990s," said William D. Underwood, president of Mercer University. "One-third of our third- and fourth-year students complete their medical education at Memorial. This wonderful facility is the logical next step in enhancing medical education opportunities for our students."
The new cancer research and education facility is designed for medical and translational research. Translational or "bench to bedside" research allows scientists and physicians to work together to quickly translate laboratory findings into new cancer treatments or prevention techniques.
The $22-million, two-story building has 30,000 square feet of space devoted exclusively to cancer research, including research on the molecular genetics and biology of cancer. The facility also includes classrooms for medical students from Mercer's School of Medicine.
"The facility houses a new student lounge and a virtual education center," said Edward E. Abrams, D.Ed., who serves as associate dean for the School of Medicine's Savannah campus and as executive director of medical education at Memorial Health. "It is an excellent venue for medical education on this campus."
There are also classrooms open to any educational needs the students may have, and two computer labs for student use. A virtual lab, said Abrams, includes medical simulations and a surgical suite for educational purposes. The multipurpose room, which bears Mercer's name, is a versatile space that can seat 250 in theater style and 180 in rounds.
Although most of Mercer's medical students will be involved in their clinical rotations, Abrams said there may also be opportunities for them to become involved in basic science research. "Because many of the students have extensive backgrounds in the basic sciences, I would like to develop summer scholarships to allow them to receive stipends while involved in research. Some residents are required to take part in research, so this will also offer new opportunities for them."
The new education and research facility is expected to have a major impact on southeast Georgia's economy. Its presence should attract world-class clinical researchers and physicians to the area, and may also make southeast Georgia more attractive to science-based industries, such as pharmaceutical companies.
Jeff Boyd, Ph.D., vice president for laboratory science at Memorial Health and internationally respected scientist in molecular cancer research, leads the team of scientists at the Hoskins Center. These scientists were recruited to Savannah from such prestigious facilities as Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, Fox Chase Cancer in Philadelphia, and the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda.
"This new facility would not have been possible without the generosity of Curtis and Elizabeth Anderson, Mercer University School of Medicine, the support of U.S. Congressman Jack Kingston, and the Federal Health Resources and Services Administration," said Robert A. Colvin, president and CEO of Memorial Health. "Because of their generosity and the generosity of others, Memorial Health is on its way to becoming a nationally recognized cancer center." The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration also awarded a "Health Care and Other Facilities" grant to Memorial Health Foundation, Inc. for a portion of costs related to the design and construction of the research and education building.
The new facility is named in honor of Dr. Iffath Hoskins, an accomplished obstetrician for high-risk patients, and her husband, Dr. William Hoskins, world-renowned gynecological oncologist, director of the Curtis and Elizabeth Anderson Cancer Institute at MHUMC, and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Mercer's School of Medicine.
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COALITION SCHOLAR HONORED AT KOMEN BALL
Atlanta- October, 2006 - Ruth O'Regan, MD, associate professor of hematology and oncology at Emory University's Winship Cancer Institute, has been selected as the Medical Honoree at the 2006 Komen Atlanta Pink Tie Ball. The Komen Atlanta ball, which will be held at the Grand Hyatt in Buckhead on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2006, is one of Atlanta's most prominent and well attended fund raisers.
"Dr. O'Regan is conducting groundbreaking work in breast cancer research, treatment and support," said Kelly Dolan, executive director of the Atlanta affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. "We are delighted to be able to honor Dr. O'Regan for the innovative and important work she is doing."
Dr. O'Regan is widely published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, having published articles in journals such as Lancet Oncology, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and the Journal of the American Medical Association. She is a member of numerous boards and scientific committees, among them the Breast Cancer Scientific Committee of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
A native of Dublin, Ireland, Dr. O'Regan earned her medical degree at University College in Dublin. She conducted a residency in Internal Medicine and a Fellowship in Oncology at the Mater Hospital in Dublin. She did her U.S. residency and fellowship at Northwestern University, Chicago, and joined the faculty there in 1999. While at Northwestern, she researched the mechanisms of selective estrogen receptor modulator or SERM resistance. In addition, she won the Compassionate Care Award from the Women's Board of Northwestern Hospital and the NSABP Young Clinical Investigator Award in 2001.
Since joining the faculty at Winship, she has continued her research in SERM resistance. Additionally, her laboratory focuses on the use of nanoparticles conjugated to antibodies to detect and quantify proteins important in breast carcinogenesis. A Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar, Dr. O'Regan is principal investigator of the first trial to be run through Georgia Cancer Coalition's innovative Georgia CORE (Center for Oncology Research and Education). She has developed a multidisciplinary breast cancer clinic at the Grady Cancer Center of Excellence and serves as Director of the Glenn Family Breast Cancer Fund, conducting research into the differences in molecular profiling in pre- and post-menopausal women. Dr. O'Regan also is co-director of the Jean Sindab Project Research Team, which focuses on developing scientific research into breast cancer in African American women.
The Komen Atlanta Pink Tie Ball is a formal dinner-dance to raise funds for breast cancer research, education and treatment programs. Seventy-five percent of all funds raised by the Atlanta Affiliate are awarded to local breast health projects and programs. Twenty-five percent of the funds are given to the national Komen Research Grant Program. The 2006 Pink Tie Ball, one of Atlanta's largest gala events, is expected to raise more than $750,000 for breast cancer research, education, screening and treatment.
For more information, log on to www.komen-atlanta.org or call 404-459-8700.
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EMORY'S WINSHIP CANCER INSTITUTE APPOINTS NEW DIRECTOR
November 7, 2006
ATLANTA—Brian Leyland-Jones, MD, PhD, has been appointed associate vice president and director of Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute, effective Jan. 1, 2007.
Dr. Leyland-Jones currently is the Minda de Gunzberg Chair in Oncology and professor of medicine at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. From 1990 to 2000, he served as founding chair of Oncology and director of the McGill University Comprehensive Cancer Centre.
“We are delighted to announce that Dr. Leyland-Jones will join the Emory Winship Cancer Institute,” said Michael M.E. Johns, MD, executive vice president of Health Affairs for Emory University. “Dr. Leyland-Jones comes to Emory with a vision for the future of Winship and experience in making that vision a reality. We feel strongly that Dr. Leyland-Jones will develop and enhance Winship’s upward trajectory of growth in cancer research, treatment and exceptional care.
“Dr. Leyland-Jones is internationally recognized for his work in individualized cancer therapies and development of novel clinical trials,” said Dr. Johns. “In addition, Dr. Leyland-Jones’ absolute devotion to patient-centered care makes him a perfect fit for Emory and the Winship Cancer Institute.”
“Georgia’s role in the fight against cancer is on the right track,” said Sonny Perdue, Governor of the State of Georgia. “Dr. Leyland-Jones’ appointment as director of Emory’s Winship Cancer Center is an important step along that path. I look forward to working with Dr. Leyland-Jones and all of our Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholars and Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scientists as we continue to make significant progress against this terrible disease. The research we conduct here in Georgia will have an impact far beyond our borders.”
Dr. Leyland-Jones holds biochemistry, medical and doctoral degrees from the University of London. Following residency training at Hammersmith, Brompton, St. Bartholomew's and London hospitals, he completed a clinical pharmacology fellowship at Cornell University and a medical oncology fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He then joined the academic staff at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and New York Hospitals with a special research interest in early clinical evaluation of new anti-cancer compounds.
In 1983, he moved to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to head the Developmental Chemotherapy section. During his time with the NCI, he was responsible for the overall development of approximately 70 anti-cancer compounds in various stages of transition from in-vitro screening to Phase III clinical trials.
“Emory University brings a tremendous array of resources to the fight against cancer,” said Dr. Leyland-Jones. “I am very excited to be coming to the Winship Cancer Institute. We are well positioned here to harness the resources of Emory University as well as our partners in research and education at the American Cancer Society, the CDC, the Georgia Cancer Coalition and the Georgia Research Alliance. Our work with Georgia Tech and our research ties to the University of Georgia will continue to grow. Through collaboration with the exceptional resources we have here in Georgia, we can make significant strides in development of prevention and personalized treatment for all types of cancer.”
Dr. Leyland-Jones also noted the extensive community outreach partnerships and opportunities that exist in Atlanta and throughout Georgia. “I look forward to working with the varied and well-organized patient support groups that are such an important part of patient and family support and education. Resources exist in many of Georgia’s cities, however, we have an opportunity to build and grow these important organizations in every corner of the state.”
During his tenure as director of the McGill Comprehensive Cancer Centre, Dr. Leyland-Jones led development of a clinical trials operation that integrated research with five clinical trial cooperative groups and more than 40 pharmaceutical companies. Cancer-related clinical trials at McGill currently include more than 100 protocols at any one time and are structured through nine multidisciplinary disease sections throughout the Cancer Centre. Dr. Leyland-Jones also initiated new sections of epidemiology and cancer pharmacology, increasing the Cancer Centre’s research space and adding several new associate and full professorial appointments. In addition, he worked closely with the Montreal community to establish eight endowed chairs and several fellowships within the department.
Dr. Leyland-Jones' main research interests are pharmacodynamics, pharmacokinetics and pharmacogenetics in oncological clinical trials; translation of preclinical models into the clinic; biomarker endpoints in Phase I/II clinical trials; and screening and mechanistic studies of novel targeted and chemotherapeutic anti-cancer agents. He has authored more than 125 peer-reviewed articles and book contributions, 150 abstracts and 29 patents.
Dr. Leyland-Jones holds leadership positions on numerous committees, including the Breast Cancer International Working Group/National Cancer Institute Cooperative Group; the Board of Directors for the National Cancer Institute of Canada; the Breast International Group, and the Herceptin Adjuvant Committee. He also serves on editorial boards for Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology; British Journal of Cancer; Clinical Proteomics; and The International Journal of IN VIVO Research, among others.
“Dr. Leyland-Jones brings a wealth of clinical, scientific and administrative experience to Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute,” said Thomas Lawley, MD, dean of the Emory University School of Medicine. “We are looking forward to working with Dr. Leyland-Jones as Winship continues its drive for National Cancer Institute designation.”
“We are very excited to have Dr. Leyland-Jones take the helm at Winship,” said James Wagner, PhD, president of Emory University. “He is an innovative leader whose dedication, integrity and experience will help guide Winship to even greater heights.”
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INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE (IOM) REPORT RELEASED - ASSESSING THE QUALITY OF CANCER CARE: AN APPROACH TO MEASUREMENT IN GEORGIA
Institute of Medicine
April 7, 2005
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OBESITY AND PROSTATE CANCER LINK GAINS WEIGHT
May 23, 2005
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U.S. BLACKS GET LESS TREATMENT FOR CANCER - STUDY
Journal of Clinical Oncology
January 18, 2005
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THE FY05 DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS ACT PROVIDES $85 MILLION TO THE DOD PROSTATE CANCER RESEARCH PROGRAM (PCRP)
Department of Defense
December 2, 2004
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DOD OVARIAN CANCER RESEARCH FY 05 APPROPRIATION
Department of Defense
Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs
August 10, 2004
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AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION OR A POUND OF CURE? INVESTING TO IMPROVE BREAST CANCER OUTCOMES FOR AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN
Journal of Clinical Oncology
Vol 22, No 13 (July 1), 2004: pp. 2517-2518
by Hannah M. Linden, Scott Ramsey, Nancy Anderson
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THE STUDY OF ACCRUAL TO CLINICAL TRIALS: CAN WE LEARN FROM STUDYING WHO ENTERS OUR STUDIES?
Journal of Clinical Oncology
Vol 22, No 11 (June 1), 2004: pp. 2039-2040
by Otis W. Brawley, Winship Cancer Institute
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MORE AMERICANS SURVIVING CANCER THAN IN 1970S
Thursday, June 24, 2004
by Paul Simao
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MERCK BACK U. S. DATABASE TO TRACK DRUG TRIALS
New York Times
Friday, June 18, 2004
by Barry Meier
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CANCER DEATHS DOWN IN U.S., REPORT FINDS
Thursday, June 3, 2004
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GEORGIA PACIFIC PLEDGES MILLIONS FOR BREAST CANCER RESEARCH
Atlanta Business Chronicle
Thursday, April 22, 2004
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FIRST STAGE OF TOUR PROVES MORE THAN JUST A RACE
Athens Banner Herald
Tuesday, April 20, 2004
by Charles Shepard
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EFFECT OF ENDING AN ANTITOBACCO YOUTH CAMPAIGN ON ADOLESCENT SUSCEPTIBILITY TO CIGARETTE SMOKING - MINNESOTA, 2002 - 2003
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Friday, April 16, 2004
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Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine Online
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AFLAC CANCER CENTER SET TO OPEN
Atlanta Business Chronicle
Wednesday, April 7, 2004
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SAINT JOSEPH'S BUYS GAMMA KNIFE
Atlanta Business Chronicle
Monday, April 5, 2004
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GEORGIA UNIVERSITIES RANK HIGH IN U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT SURVEY
Atlanta Business Chronicle
Friday, April 2, 2004
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GRADY PUTS THE BRAKES ON SOME FREE CARE
Wednesday, March 31, 2004
by Patricia Guthrie
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MANY NOT HAVING MAMMOGRAMS UNDER MEDICARE
Wednesday, March 31, 2004
by Melanie S. Welte
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THE DIFFERENT FACES OF HEALTH
March 20, 2004
by Patricia Guthrie
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DOCTORS GET GRANT FOR CANCER RESEARCH
February 20, 2004
by Tom Corwin
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CANCER COALITION SEEKS SOLUTIONS IN DIFFERENT AREAS
January 19, 2004
by Tom Corwin
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PERDUE NOMINATES GEORGIA CANCER COALITION PRESIDENT
Atlanta Business Chronicle
December 11, 2003
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GEORGIA CANCER COALITION ATTRACTS RESEARCHERS AND AWARDS GRANTS
Atlanta Business Chronicle
February 20, 2004
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GEORGIA ATTACKS CANCER
Atlanta Business Chronicle
In Depth: Healthcare Quarterly
February 13, 2004
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GEORGIA CANCER RESEARCH INITIATIVE GAINS MOMENTUM
Georgia Cancer Coalition Recruits 32 New Top National Scientists and Awards Nearly $1 Million to 20 Local Cancer Researchers
ATLANTA – (February 20, 2004) - The Georgia Cancer Coalition today announced the recruitment of 32 leading cancer researchers from around the nation to expand its Distinguished Cancer Clinicians and Scientists (DCCS) program. Additionally, the Coalition has awarded nearly $1 million in research grants to 20 Georgia cancer investigators this year. Of this sum, Georgians have contributed nearly $800,000 through their state tax returns as part of the “Georgia Cancer Research Fund” checkoff.
“Nearly every family in the state has been touched in some way by cancer,” said Governor Sonny Perdue. “I am proud that we have continued to invest in the health of Georgians through grants to Georgia scientists and the recruitment of renowned clinicians and researchers.”
Since the inception of the DCCS program in 2002, the Georgia Cancer Coalition has awarded more than $11 million to strengthen cancer research and clinical oncology expertise in Georgia. This investment of state dollars, derived in part from the Tobacco Settlement, has yielded more than $77 million in new grant funding to the state, indicating a 7 to 1 return on state investment.
The new scholars were recruited from such nationally prestigious research institutions as Memorial Sloan-Kettering, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins, Stanford University School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, the National Cancer Institute and the World Health Organization. Since the establishment of the DCCS program, the Coalition has brought 66 renowned scholars to Georgia institutions and has achieved 44 % of its goal of 150 recruited scientists by 2008. Participating in the matching grants program are Emory University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia Southern University, Georgia State University, Medical College of Georgia, Mercer University, Morehouse School of Medicine and the University of Georgia.
“As a community we are coming together – state government, universities, corporations, foundations and individual citizens – in an unprecedented and powerful public-private partnership to reduce the incidence, suffering and death from cancer in Georgia,” said Bill Todd, newly appointed president of the Georgia Cancer Coalition.
“I am inspired by the deep level of energy, creativity and commitment that this partnership is bringing to the table to ensure Georgians access to the very best in cancer care and treatment resources, and I feel privileged to be part of it,” said Todd.
Both the Georgia Cancer Coalition’s Distinguished Cancer Clinicians and Scientists program and the Cancer Research Fund projects are closely aligned with the National Cancer Institute’s top research priorities where recent breakthroughs had led to more effective, targeted and gentle cancer treatments.
The scientists are currently leading research to unlock the mysteries in such areas as molecular and cancer cell biology, cancer bioinformatics and imaging, genetic intervention and protein profiles for early detection.
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GCC SELECTED AS FIRST STATE CANCER STUDY BY THE INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
Atlanta, GA (September 25, 2003) - The Georgia Cancer Coalition (GCC) announced today that the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of The National Academies has begun a new study to assist the GCC accomplish its mission to reduce cancer deaths in the state. This is the first time the IOM has undertaken study of a state effort because of the effort’s potential national impact.
Developing outcomes and accountability measurements to monitor Georgia’s progress in improving cancer care and reducing overall cancer-related morbidity and mortality has been a hallmark of the GCC’s efforts. The IOM will undertake a privately funded twelve-month initiative to assure an independent and unbiased assessment of the GCC’s progress and impact.
“The IOM is highly regarded as the nation’s independent review body on matters of biomedical science, medicine and health. We feel that there is no better independent scientific medical organization available to advise the GCC on how to measure progress toward its goals and objectives,” said Russ Toal, President of the GCC.
The IOM will develop a preliminary list of benchmarks and indicators for state cancer control success and develop benchmarks for quality indicators relative to GCC program initiatives. IOM provides a public service independent of government agencies to ensure scientifically based and independent analysis.
The GCC has incorporated outcomes measurements in its program initiatives, and has stressed the importance of performance indicators to state cancer care providers. Initiative leaders feel strongly that benchmarks and performance measurements are a critical and dynamic process assuring that tobacco settlement dollars are used to their maximum advantage in the fight against cancer.
“We are very excited about the work of the Georgia Cancer Coalition” said Roger Herdman, M.D., Director of the National Cancer Policy Board of the IOM. “Georgia’s state-wide cancer control initiative is impressive in its scope and investment. To help assure it achieves its mission, the GCC has asked the IOM and national leaders in cancer control to recommend measures of success and to identify indicators of quality cancer care. Doing so has the potential to not only benefit residents of Georgia, but also to create a new national standard for achievement of state-wide cancer control goals.”
In a related development, the GCC and the Division of Public Health of the Department of Human Resources announced that the Georgia Comprehensive Cancer Registry received from the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR) a “Gold Certification of Excellence” for the registry’s ability to collect accurate, complete and timely data about newly diagnosed cancer cases in Georgia. For the first time in many years, Georgia’s registry was recognized for meeting the highest standards of data quality.
The Georgia Comprehensive Cancer Registry is a population-based registry serving the public health needs of the citizens of the state. Supported with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the registry provides invaluable data to cancer researchers, program administrators, public health and the GCC.
“Having a registry that is both current and accurate has been a key objective of the cancer initiative,” said Toal. “When we began the initiative in 2001, we only had data complete for 1995. The cancer care providers of the state, the registry administrators and the Division of Public Health have done a tremendous job ensuring that we all can make data-driven decisions.”
Carol Steiner, RN, MN, Acting Director of the Chronic Disease Prevention Branch of DHR’s Division of Public Health, said, “The registry is critical to Public Health’s work to track, control and prevent cancer. With this award, the registry has been recognized for being among the best, and none of this would have occurred without the positive collaboration that the GCC has caused across the state.”
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WINSHIP CANCER INSTITUTE TO HIGHLIGHT GCC CANCER RESEARCH
1st Annual Symposium: Conquering Cancer in the 21st Century
Make plans now to join some of the most prominent names in cancer research, epidemiology, treatment, and care at the Winship Cancer Institute’s International Scientific Symposium, Conquering Cancer in the 21st Century, September 22 – 23, 2003.
A reception and poster session highlighting new cancer research and Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scholars will be held the evening of Monday, September. 22, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the new WCI Building, 5th Floor Conference Room.
The Symposium will take place Tuesday, September. 23, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Cox Banquet Hall on the Emory Campus. Guest speakers include:
· Lee Hood, MD, PhD, President of the Institute for Systems Biology, Seattle, WA;
· Donald S. Coffey, PhD, Professor of Urology, Oncology and Molecular Sciences at Johns Hopkins Medical Institute, Baltimore, MD;
· Anna Barker, PhD, Deputy Director Strategic Scientific Initiatives, National Cancer Institute,Bethesda, MD;
· Merrill S. Kies, MD, Professor of Medicine, Department of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology, University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center;
· Sandra Millon-Underwood, PhD, RN, FAAN, Professor, School of Nursing, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
· Russ Toal, President, Georgia Cancer Coalition
· Jerome W. Yates, MD, National Vice President for Research, American Cancer Society.
Accompanying these distinguished guests are Emory faculty members: Otis Brawley, MD, Professor of Medicine, Associate Director for Cancer Control, WCI, and Director of the Georgia Cancer Center of Excellence at Grady; Leland Chung, PhD, Professor of Urology and Director of the Emory University School of Medicine Molecular Urology and Therapeutics program; Fadlo Khuri, MD, Professor of Medicine and Associate Director for Clinical and Translational Research, WCI; and Jonathan W. Simons, MD, Professor of Medicine and Director of WCI. Paul Doetsch, PhD, Professor of Biochemistry and Radiation Oncology and Acting Associate Director for Basic Sciences, WCI, is the Symposium Director.
The Symposium will be held in conjunction with the dedication of the new Winship Cancer Institute building, which will take place on September 24, 2003.
The Emory University School of Medicine designates this educational activity for a maximum of 8.1 credit hours toward the AMA Physician’s Recognition Award. In addition, 8.1 Nursing contact hours have also been approved.
There is no fee to attend the Reception or Symposium, however, we are requesting that each participant register by contacting 1-888-WINSHIP or the Emory Office of Continuing Medical Education at 404-727-5695 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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CENTER BRINGS HOPE FOR CANCER PATIENTS
Savannah Morning News
August 28, 2003
by Lannie Peterson
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CANCER NETWORK EARNS HONOR
The Augusta Chronicle
May 15, 2003
by Tom Corwin
Even from across the Savannah River, Jane Floyd could see what a regional program designation from the Georgia Cancer Coalition might mean for patients like her.
"It would be great for the CSRA," said Ms. Floyd, 62, of Graniteville, who is being treated for endometrial cancer at Medical College of Georgia Hospital and Clinics.
On Thursday, Augusta and Athens leaders were notified that the East Georgia Cancer Network had been designated a Regional Program of Excellence. The Georgia Cancer Research Center, a proposal from the Medical College of Georgia and the University of Georgia, was granted a provisional designation as a Center of Excellence. Cancer networks centered around Albany and Savannah also received regional program designations.
The announcements cap a two-year battle by Augusta leaders to get recognition and funding to improve treatment and research. The cancer coalition will receive another round of applications May 30 and will decide on funding afterward, hopefully in June, said Vice President Nancy Paris.
The programs have not been told how much funding might be available because "we have some and we're hoping to assemble more," including grants from private foundations, Ms. Paris said. The coalition is funded primarily by part of the state's tobacco settlement money.
MCG/UGA and the regional programs will be asked to address questions raised by the 15-member expert review panel that scored the proposals, Coalition President Russ Toal said.
Still, "we're off and running," said Dr. Frank Rumph, the East Central Health District director and co-principal investigator for the East Georgia Cancer Network.
The program is a vast, sprawling project that includes 29 hospitals and nearly 3,000 physicians from Augusta, Athens and 27 surrounding counties, many of them rural and underserved. Its $47 million, three-year proposal envisions a broad menu of improved services, from "nurse navigators" that will guide patients through treatment to a tissue bank that would coordinate tissue samples from patients that might later be used in research.
The related Georgia Cancer Research Center asked for $60 million over three years to form a collaborative series of research projects and cancer specialist training programs.
The regional programs have been long-sought symbols of civic pride for Georgia's second-tier cities since Emory University and Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta landed the first one in 2001. Augusta and Savannah community leaders, in particular, have jockeyed for two years to come up with proposals that would make them the next designee.
"I think it can have a profound impact on health care in this region and health care in Georgia," MCG President Daniel W. Rahn said. "I'm very excited about it, but there's a lot of work ahead."
Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or email@example.com
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CANCER CENTER GETS DESIGNATION
The Albany News
May 15, 2003
by Cassandra Corcoran
ALBANY — Southwest Georgia Cancer Coalition members can let out the collective breath they've been holding and smile.
Coalition information More information about the Southwest Georgia Cancer Coalition, including programs being offered and how to donate money, can be found on the organization's Web site at www.swgacancer.org.
The regional cancer-fighting alliance learned Thursday afternoon it will become one of the state's regional programs of excellence.
"This is very exciting," said Michael Hooks, interim chief executive officer of the regional coalition. "This is tremendous news for Southwest Georgians. They should be very excited this designation is in this area. The next step is to implement it — get it going."
The announcement came three days after the Georgia Cancer Coalition was scheduled to make it.
Officials at the state coalition had been waiting on the "green light" from Gov. Sonny Perdue, said Russ Toal, president of the Georgia Cancer Coalition.
The Southeast Georgia Cancer Alliance, representing the Savannah area, and the East Georgia Cancer Network, which represents the Augusta-Athens area, also received regional program of excellence designations.
All three designees rated a score of excellent from a 15-member committee composed mostly of nationally recognized cancer experts.
The Georgia Cancer Research Center, part of the Medical College of Georgia/ University of Georgia, received provisional designation as a cancer center of excellence. The provisional status of the designation is expected to be removed after the schools address a few items in their proposal, Toal said in a written statement.
The governor also issued a statement, saying: "These designation awards recognize the considerable effort of cancer caregivers, patients and survivors in more than half the state's counties who have joined together to combat this dread disease in the broadest manner possible. I salute their dedication and partnership with the state's coalition."
Southwest Georgia's regional coalition had requested $16 million, half of which would be made up of matching funds, for its first year. How much funding the coalition will receive as a regional program of excellence won't be known until the end of June.
The coalition's goal is to increase cancer awareness so residents will lead healthier lives and get more cancer screenings. That will help doctors catch cancer in the early stages, making it cheaper to treat and increasing patients' chances of survival.
Also helping in the fight will be area patients' improved access to clinical trials of cutting-edge cancer drugs.
The designation will help snare scientists and researchers, biotech firms, and others to increase the area's knowledge and economic base, Hooks said.
Five additional coalitions are vying for designations. An announcement on those applications is expected in late June.
The Georgia Cancer Coalition was created in 2000 and is funded by a mix of public and private sources, including money from the state's settlement with tobacco companies.
The coalition's aim is to create a statewide network of cancer care to ensure all Georgians have access to high-quality treatment close to home.
Cassandra Corcoran can be reached at (229) 888-9358.
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REGIONAL CANCER GROUP WINS STATE APPROVAL
The Savannah News
May 16, 2003
by Lanie Lippincott Peterson
After more than two years of work, a 24-county coalition of cancer survivors, doctors and educators won the designation of "regional program of excellence" from the state-wide Georgia Cancer Coalition.
That new title means the group, the Southeast Georgia Cancer Alliance, has backing from the state's top cancer officials and from Gov. Sonny Perdue in its broad-based effort to fight cancer.
Alliance programs -- from new prostate cancer screenings to more clinical trials -- are expected to serve more than 806,000 people in a region that ranges from rural Coffee County to urban Chatham and Effingham counties.
The Georgia Cancer Coalition also named two other groups, one in Albany and another in Augusta, as "regional programs of excellence." Those groups and the Alliance received ratings of "excellent" from state and national cancer experts who reviewed their plans for treatment and awareness, said coalition president Russ Toal.
In a prepared statement, Purdue applauded the three groups. He called regional cancer programs "a cornerstone of our initiative to reduce the incidence and mortality rates of cancer in Georgia."
In the southeast region, 2,600 residents are diagnosed with cancer each year, and 1,450 die annually. Regional cancer rates for lung, prostate and cervical cancer are higher than state-wide, Alliance figures showed.
Alliance members were ecstatic that their program got state approval.
"You may not see a lot of change" until the funding is approved in late June, said breast cancer survivor Melissa Olliff Morris of Register. "But I think it's going to go a long way to stomp out cancer. There's treatment out there that just needs funding. And clinical trials that need more people to get in."
Alliance chairman, Dr. William J. Hoskins, called the new designation "great for our region."
The group is seeking $9.7 million for fiscal 2004 and $26.2 million over three years.
Even with a small portion of the money, "I think the organization itself is so well established, we're going to have some impact" on cancer care this year, said Hoskins, who also directs Memorial Health's Anderson Cancer Institute.
Paul P. Hinchey, president and chief executive officer of St. Joseph's/Candler, noted that competing hospital systems and doctors "pulled together" for a common goal of fighting cancer.
Most Alliance programs aren't expected to start for several months but already, Hinchey said new education programs on recognizing prostate and skin cancer are planned throughout southeast Georgia.
Technicians are also being trained to open the region's first tissue bank, a depository for cancerous samples that could let researchers type cancers and seek drugs that target them.
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AUGUSTA GROUP SUBMITS BID FOR CANCER PROGRAM
April 1, 2003
ATLANTA - Three health-care coalitions, including groups based in Augusta and Savannah, have filed applications with the state to begin regional cancer programs.
The three are among eight regional networks that received $250,000 planning grants last spring to apply to the Georgia Cancer Coalition for designation as a Regional Program of Excellence, said Nancy Paris, the coalition's vice president.
The other five, and a sixth group that received a similar grant in December, are expected to submit their applications by the cancer coalition's second deadline on May 30, she said. The first deadline was Monday.
The Augusta-based group consists of a partnership formed by the Medical College of Georgia and the University of Georgia.
The Southeast Georgia Cancer Alliance includes hospitals, health districts, universities and community agencies centered in the Savannah, Brunswick and Waycross areas.
The third regional coalition to file an application Friday includes health-care facilities in Albany, Valdosta and Thomasville.
Regional programs of excellence will focus on a variety of approaches to fighting cancer, including prevention, diagnosis, treatment and clinical research. However, they will not be involved in the "pure" research that the presence of research universities makes possible.
The first cancer center authorized under the state initiative begun by former Gov. Roy Barnes opened last month at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.
Coalition Executive Director Russ Toal has said he expects several cities to apply to join Atlanta as a cancer center, but Ms. Paris said only the Augusta/Athens partnership has sought the designation.
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EMORY GETS GRANT FOR PROSTATE CANCER STUDY
March 27, 2003
by David Wahlberg
Emory University's Winship Cancer Institute has received a $10 million federal grant to launch a prostate cancer research project with 11 other universities in seven other states.
Funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, the program will work on identifying new therapeutic targets for advanced prostate cancer. It is led by Dr. Jonathan Simons, Winship director, and Dr. Leland Chung, an Emory urologist.
Prostate cancer is one of the main focuses at Winship as it applies for prestigious National Cancer Institute status as part of the Georgia Cancer Coalition, a state effort using tobacco settlements funds to improve cancer care.
The other institutions involved are Wayne State University in Detroit, Johns Hopkins Oncology Center in Baltimore, Harvard Medical School in Boston, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, the University of California at Davis in Sacramento, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center in Los Angeles, the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and Harvard/Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
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NEW CANCER CENTER AT GRADY OPENS
Gov. Sonny Perdue evoked the memory of his mother, Ophie, when dedicating the first Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence Monday at Grady Memorial Hospital....
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CANCER CENTER OPENS IN ATLANTA
At the new Grady Cancer Center, large windows bring in natural light for chemotherapy patients who must sit long hours for treatment. A garden with a bubbling fountain relieves stress and anxiety. Advanced imaging machines can detect new cancer cases.
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THE CANCER GAP: LATEST IN THE SERIES
Her plea: 'Get Help'
Patient's legacy echoes as Grady opens new doors...
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GRADY FACILITY TARGETS POOR, BLACK, UNINSURED
The state's first Cancer Center for Excellence opens today, a $31.3 million, attractive facility set to provide high-tech treatment for all Georgians, and stem the disproportionate number of cancer deaths among African-Americans and the poor.
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EDUCATION & AWARENESS CAMPAIGN PROMOTES CANCER SCREENING IN GEORGIA
This month’s Partnership Spotlight is shining on the Georgia Cancer Coalition (GCC), the Department of Human Resources (DHR) and other groups who are motivating Georgians to schedule appointments for cancer screening.
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GCC DISTINGUISHED SCHOLAR CHUNG AND EMORY UNIVERSITY REACTION TO COLUMBIA TRAGEDY
excerpted from Emory's Momentum Update that is sent out by Dr. Johns for the Health Sciences Center.
"WE FELT AS IF THEY WERE OUR PARTNERS"
Over the weekend, all of us suffered a painful blow as we watched seven scientists perish during the loss of the NASA space shuttle Columbia. But no one at Emory felt this more deeply than Dr. Leland Chung, professor of urology and hematology/oncology in the Department of Urology and Winship Cancer Institute. Dr. Chung headed one of the 80 scientific experiments aboard the shuttle. He and colleagues at the Fred-Hutchinson Cancer Institute in Seattle and the University of Virginia were trying to use the zero gravity environment of space to learn more about how prostate cancer cells grow in bone, something of special interest since many advanced cases of prostate cancer metastasize to bone. While doing this, Dr. Chung worked closely with NASA engineers and the astronauts on the mission. Data had been arriving back from the experiment - which was going extremely well, producing dramatic results - and on Saturday Dr. Chung was happily awaiting the astronaut scientists' return to earth. He was stunned, needless to say. Speaking of the lost astronauts, he told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that it felt "as if they were our partners."
As media interest continued in the lost experiment (which had received extensive media attention during the mission itself), Dr. Fray Marshall, chair of the Department of Urology, talked to numerous reporters on Dr. Chung's behalf. He expressed the deep sadness everyone at Emory involved with the NASA team was feeling but also the "fervent hope that the exploration of space and our exploration of the solution to cancer is not slowed with this national tragedy."
Dr. Chung is continuing his research and plans to validate the information obtained from the experiment to develop better prevention and treatment strategies for prostate cancer. He also wrote NASA to say "We want to dedicate every paper we publish on this series of study to our partner astronauts. We will move this forward with new nergy and dedication. May God bless America. Our dreams of discovery and innovation will always include a piece of our NASA family."
In the meantime, the Winship Cancer Institute has placed a small memorial in the lobby of Clinic Building B - with flowers, photographs of the lost astronauts, a patch from a team jacket, a place for people to write messages, and a message from Dr. Chung himself: "Discovery for tomorrow should not stop today."
Dr. Johns says, "Tragedies like the loss of the Columbia remind us of how fragile life is, but perhaps even more importantly of how heroic is the human spirit. Our hearts go out to the families and colleagues of those who died, and we take this moment to both mourn them and to celebrate their dedication to science -- the same dedication so many of you show every day."
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PERDUE EARMARKS FUNDS FOR CANCER COALITION
Atlanta Business Chronicle
January 24, 2003
Julie Bryant Staff Writer
Despite the state's budget crunch, Gov. Sonny Perdue has set aside money to keep the Georgia Cancer Coalition (GCC) running.
More than $31 million has been earmarked in the fiscal 2004 budget for the GCC, created by former Gov. Roy Barnes in 2000 with the aim of making the state a national hub for cancer research and treatments. The allocation would match last year's.
Perdue is expected to meet with leaders of the GCC in the coming weeks to discuss his plans for the organization in greater detail, according to a statement released today by GCC President Russ Toal.
Toal said the GCC is pleased with Perdue's plans to devote two-thirds of the state's tobacco settlement payments to health care, including cancer initiatives. The GCC also stands behind the governor's plans to raise the tax on tobacco, he said.
"Raising tobacco taxes will not only reduce youth smoking and lung cancer rates over time, it will reduce health care costs, make a serious dent in the number of cardiac deaths and generate badly needed revenue for essential state services," Toal said.
© 2003 American City Business Journals Inc.
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PERDUE SAYS BUDGET FORCES TAX INCREASE
Augusta Chronicle, January 23, 2003
Gov. Sonny Perdue and his wife, Mary, visit a baby in the neonatal
intensive care unit at Medical College of Georgia Children's Medical Center. The governor went to the hospital Wednesday in his first official trip to the city.
Raising taxes would be a last resort, but Gov. Sonny Perdue said he will not gut education, health care and child welfare to avoid it. And there could be a health argument as well as an economic advantage to raising the cigarette and liquor taxes, he said.
Mr. Perdue and his wife, Mary, toured Medical College of Georgia
Children's Medical Center on Wednesday in his first official visit to Augusta. The governor has proposed $8.6 million for the Cancer Research Center at MCG, and Wednesday he gave a glowing endorsement to the research collaborations between MCG and the University of Georgia in Athens.
Linking basic research at UGA to clinical research and patients at MCG,"that's what really puts the whole piece together," said Mr. Perdue, who earlier took part in the groundbreaking for the Paul D. Coverdell Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences at UGA.
The funding mechanism for the Georgia Cancer Coalition - two-thirds of the state's share of the tobacco settlement money - will remain the same despite the tight budget, Mr. Perdue said. The coalition will get roughly the same $30 million as last year, and it is grateful, coalition President Russ Toal said.
"We are pleased with the support he has offered the cancer initiative,and we are extremely happy about the proposed tobacco tax increase," Mr.Toal said.
The governor's budget proposals to raise those taxes and reduce the
property tax exemption have met with little public enthusiasm and have encouraged efforts to cut spending.
MCG President Dr. Daniel Rahn (center) talks in a hallway with Mr.Perdue (right) and the governor's assistant Chris Young during the governor's tour through the children's hospital.
"They're looking for whatever alternatives are there," said state Sen.Randy Hall, R-Augusta. "I think the cancer coalition, its mission, will
move forward. I don't see any significant pullback in that at all."
Mr. Perdue said that he has urged his department heads to continue
looking for cuts but that there might not be enough in the budget.
"We would love not to have to raise taxes," he said. "That is not our option at this point. We cannot find the money at this point without affecting education, health care, Medicaid and protection of children."
And there are health benefits from raising those taxes.
"The use of tobacco is a major driver of health care costs. Aside from the revenue aspect, there's a health aspect to the excise tax on tobacco and on alcohol, to some degree, with DUIs and traffic deaths and family violence associated with the use of alcohol," Mr. Perdue said.
"The most effective thing we can do, absolutely the most effective thing we can do to keep young kids from beginning to smoke, is to raise the price. Frankly, I look at it as trying to save their lives."
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EMORY SCIENTIST SHIPS PROSTATE CANCER CELLS INTO SPACE
David Wahlberg - Staff
Saturday, January 11, 2003
An Emory University scientist is sending a prostate cancer tumor into orbit aboard space shuttle Columbia, scheduled to launch next week.
Urologist Leland Chung's celestial research has a down-to-earth goal: to study tumors in a three-dimensional, gravity-free setting that better resembles cancer in the human body than cancer grown as a thin layer of goo in petri dishes.
If the NASA-sponsored journey --- set to begin Thursday --- proves instructive, "in the future we may do early drug trials at the international space station before we conduct them in humans," Chung said.
For years, researchers have struggled to come up with 3-D clusters of cancer cells in the lab that mimic the look and activity of actual tumors. Some have placed cells on collagen scaffolds, but they can contain foreign material that throws off results.
NASA scientists, inspired by a technician who spun a syringe in an electric drill for kicks, invented a rotating "bioreactor" that keeps tissue suspended in a state of extremely low gravity.
Chung has been using bioreactors to study prostate tumors and their interaction with bone cells since 1995. Now his samples will ride inside a bioreactor on the shuttle, where near zero-gravity conditions should allow tumors to grow even more purely, he said.
Ovarian, skin and colon cancer cells traveled on the shuttle Discovery in August, but this will be prostate cancer's space-travel debut. NASA routinely invites scientists to conduct experiments on shuttle flights.
Chung hopes to see what happens when the cancer cells grow into bone, a process known as metastasis, which could lead to better diagnostic tests.
"We might be able to find out which genes are turning on or off during metastasis, and they could become new markers that indicate cancer progression," he said.
But the main purpose is to compare how tumors grow in space to what is known about how they grow inside the body. That will help determine how useful the low-gravity cancer model will be for future research, since humans won't be shedding their gravity anytime soon.
"We don't know how it will be different in space," Chung said, "but we believe this system may have some magic."
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SW GEORGIA CANCER COALITION ELECTS ITS CHARTER BOARD OF DIRECTORS
January 14, 2003
Albany — The Southwest Georgia Cancer Coalition has elected its first board of directors, which the organization says clears two hurdles in the region's efforts to create a regional program of excellence.
The coalition is one of eight Georgia groups that received $250,000 planning grants from the Georgia Cancer Coalition. The grant and other in-kind and financial contributions are being used to to support the regional group's work on a final proposal for continuing funding to become a Center of Excellence under the state organization.
"In a way, naming a board of directors and completing our incorporation process may seem like mere technical steps in the process, but they really do symbolize the extraordinary cooperation and collaborative efforts required of dozens of people from throughout Southwest Georgia to get this effort to this point," said Ken Beverly, president of Archbold Medical Systems and chairman of the regional coalition's steering and executive committees.
"Southwest Georgia has truly come together to fight cancer," he said.
Regional groups' applications for regional programs of excellence must be filed with the state organization by March 7. Awards are to be made by May 1.
The outgoing steering committee elected the directors, who will meet in February and elect officers.
Board members are Decatur County Commissioner Glenda Battle, RN; Beverly; the Rev. Ernest Davis, Bethel AME Church, Albany; Dr. Sammie Dixon, vice president, Tift Regional Medical Center; Lynne Feldman, MC, director, Public Health District 8-1; Dr. Jim Hotz, Albany Area Primary Health Care; Dr. Steve Johnson, Archbold Memorial; Dr. Nancy LaFuente, Moultrie; Wayne Martin, CEO, Crisp Regional Hospital; James McGahee, CEO, South Georgia Medical Center, Valdosta; Cecelia Morris, American Cancer Society, Albany; Dr. Paul Newell, director, Public Health District 8-2; Kay Read, editor, The Albany Herald; William Richardson, CEO, Tift Regional; Marvin Singletary, businessman, Blakely/Albany; Joe Wernick, CEO, Phoebe Putney Health Systems; Mark Wilson, businessman, Valdosta.
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AWARENESS GAP IN CANCER SCREENING
BYLINE: PATRICIA GUTHRIE, STAFF
PUBLICATION: The Atlanta Journal and Constitution
The main reason some Georgia women don't get screened for breast and cervical cancers is because they don't know they should, a new state survey shows.
"It's not that they know about it and just don't do it," said Dr. Kimberly Redding, medical director of the state's cancer control office. "They don't do it because they don't know to do it."
The Georgia Cancer Coalition and Department of Human Resources will use the survey results to develop the first of several major cancer awareness and education campaigns.
Reaching doctors with the message that every woman older than 40 needs to get a mammogram yearly for breast cancer, and that all women need regular Pap tests for cervical cancer, is also part of the strategy, said Russ Toal, GCC president.
More than 80 percent of the women polled reported they had regular breast and cervical cancer screening, Redding said.
Other reasons given by those who didn't get checked included having no health insurance; relying on their physician or nurse practitioner to tell them they needed Pap tests or mammograms; and believing that they weren't at risk for cancer.
Regular checkups help doctors discover cancers earlier, before the disease has spread and becomes harder to treat. Breast and cervical cancer are the first of five cancers being tackled.
The survey of Schapiro Research Group used more than 1,000 interviews taken from 27,000 random phone calls in all 159 Georgia counties.
The cancer coalition was launched two years ago by outgoing Gov. Roy Barnes with the aim of reducing cancer mortality, improving services to minority and rural residents and increasing cancer research. Gov.-elect Sonny Perdue has said he supports the overall program and its goals.
For cancer screening, women are urged to contact their health care
provider or county health office. For more information or referrals,
call 1-800-422-6237 or visit the Web site www.georgiacancer.org.
Copyright © 2003 The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
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GROUP TO OPEN FIRST FACILITY IN ATLANTA
In a matter of weeks, the much-anticipated Georgia cancer initiative will finally open up shop for patients.
The 2 1/2 -year-old Georgia Cancer Coalition is scheduled to open the first of what are expected to be several cancer centers at the end of the month. Two renovated floors at the state's largest public hospital, Grady Memorial in downtown Atlanta, will house the Georgia Cancer Center, the first tangible accomplishment of an initiative announced in May 2000 by Gov. Roy Barnes.
For more information go to http://www.augustachronicle.com/ns-search/stories/010603/met_172-4669.000.shtml?NS-search-set=/3e22d/aaaa2081222dd75&NS-doc-offset=0&.
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EXPERTS PREDICT SURVIVAL OF EFFORT
AUGUSTA CHRONICLE, November 8, 2002
By Tom Corwin
Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes created one of the more wildly popular health care programs in the Georgia Cancer Coalition, which had cities across the state vying to gain top status in the $1 billion initiative.
Even with his defeat by Republican Sonny Perdue, the cancer crusade will continue, local health care providers and politicians said.
Coalition President Russ Toal told a meeting of cancer doctors Wednesday night that he expected the program to survive Mr. Barnes, said Stephen Peiper, the chairman of pathology at the Medical College of Georgia, who attended the meeting.
Mr. Toal said the cancer program had received bipartisan support for its funding requests and that Mr. Perdue had agreed in the gubernatorial debates that it was a strength for the state, Dr. Peiper said.
"Did Russ give any specific indication of where funds would come from? No," Dr. Peiper said. "What he did say was basically it was going to be dependent upon how the state budget goes and what the new governor's priorities (are). But it was his expectation that the process would continue."
Augusta and Athens have formed a cancer network that is one of eight across the state working on a bid to become a Regional Program of Excellence, a prestigious research and treatment designation within the coalition.
Defeated Senate Majority Leader Charles Walker had all but promised that Augusta would get one of the top-tier centers. Georgia Sen. Don Cheeks, D-Augusta, said Thursday that he would be willing to switch parties, and possibly give Republicans control of the state Legislature, upon Mr. Perdue's promise that Augusta would get such a center.
Also up in the air is $8.6 million once promised by Mr. Barnes and Mr. Walker toward a cancer research center at MCG. That and other issues are part of what MCG is trying to assess in the wake of the elections, MCG President Daniel W. Rahn said.
"I'm optimistic that ($8.6 million) will be in the budget in the upcoming year," Dr. Rahn said. That funding is part of what Mr. Cheeks would be seeking.
"I'm hopeful that the governor will see reason to support the total program of the cancer research facility being in Augusta," Mr. Cheeks said. "And it takes that building."
It makes sense for Augusta to pursue its cancer efforts because it transcends politics, said J. Larry Read, the chief executive officer of University Health Care System.
"It was a bipartisan effort and should continue," Mr. Read said.
Staff Writer Heidi Coryell Williams contributed to this report.
Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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COALITION: CANCER CENTER BID TO GO ON
11/07/02 By C.C. Wilson III, Rome News-Tribune Staff Writer
Following Tuesday’s defeat of two key Democratic players in Rome’s bid for a regional cancer center of excellence status, initiative supporters Wednesday remained optimistic the program’s progress will continue.
“We do not expect this to slow the momentum of the Georgia Cancer Coalition,” said Nancy Paris, cancer coalition vice president. “We look forward to working with the new governor and his administration.”
Concerns were raised that Gov. Roy Barnes’ defeat by Republican challenger Sonny Perdue would stall or derail efforts for a statewide network of regional cancer centers, spearheaded by the non-profit Georgia Cancer Coalition.
Locally, incumbent state Sen. Richard Marable, D-Rome, lost his District 52 seat to Rome attorney Preston Smith, a Republican. Marable had worked closely with Barnes and the General Assembly to secure funding for Rome’s bid for a regional center.
Rep. E.M. “Buddy” Childers, D-Floyd, said the future of a Northwest Georgia cancer center now rests with the new administration. “That will be dictated by the newly elected senator, Preston Smith, and the new governor, Sonny Perdue,” Childers said. “I am willing to work with them, but the center’s future is up to them now.”
Smith on Wednesday said he will vigorously support the regional push. “Northwest Georgia deserves a cancer center because of who we are and not who we elect,” Smith said, adding that having a same-party governor can only improve Rome’s chances. Perdue was unavailable for comment Wednesday.
Last June, eight regions statewide were named to the coalition’s list of prospective cancer centers, including Rome-based Northwest Georgia Regional Cancer Coalition.
The coalition fosters partnerships between business and medical communities to combine resources in the battle against cancer. Each region received a $250,000 planning grant, part of a 1998 nationwide settlement against tobacco companies. More money is expected to follow, especially if a region is designated a cancer center of excellence.
The local coalition — comprised mostly of Northwest Georgia’s business and medical community — has worked closely with local legislators for the past two years.
“We work with whoever is in office,” said Gena Agnew, Rome-Floyd Cancer Initiative assistant executive director. “We still have a huge job to do, to pull together all our programs. This is a great thing for all of Georgia. I couldn’t see anybody going in and tearing it apart at this point.”
“I think it will be an asset,” said Dr. Ken Davis, a private practice surgeon in Rome and Northwest Georgia Regional Cancer Coalition’s executive director. “I look forward to working with Preston and the new administration. Politics doesn’t make something like this go away. And actually I don’t think it will.”
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CDC INCREASES GRANT MONEY TO STATE FOR CANCER CONTROL PROGRAMS
Atlanta Business Chronicle - October 30, 2002
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has awarded the Georgia Department of Human Resources (DHR) a 35 percent increase in its grant to support cancer control programs.
The CDC increased Georgia's grant amount by $1.5 million over last year's base award in recognition of the progress made by the statewide comprehensive cancer initiative, the Georgia Cancer Coalition (GCC) and its partners.
The funding will expand the prostate cancer professional education and awareness effort, support the development of a colorectal cancer screening plan, expand the Breast and Cervical Cancer Program and maintain support for the Cancer Registry and the Comprehensive Cancer Control Program.
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GCC BIOMEDICAL SCIENTIST TESTING NANOPARTICLES AS EARLY CANCER DETECTION AGENT
Biomedical scientist Shuming Nie, recruited to Emory in the GCC Distinguished Scientists & Clinicians program, is testing the
use of nanoparticles called quantum dots to dramatically improve clinical diagnostic tests for the early detection of cancer.
The tiny particles glow and act as markers on cells and genes, giving scientists the ability to rapidly analyze biopsy tissue from cancer patients so that doctors can provide the most effective therapy available.
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ROME SHOWS OFF CANCER RESOURCES
10/16/02By John M. Willis, Rome News-Tribune Business Editor
Northwest Georgia has done “a good job” of identifying regional cancer resources, said Russ Toal, president of the Georgia Cancer Coalition. “The biggest challenge ... is pulling together all of these resources so the people you are trying to serve are not bounced around through the health-care system,” Toal said.
Toal, consultant Kathy Russell and Dr. Kim Redding, director of the Department of Human Resources Comprehensive Cancer Control Program, spent the day in Rome learning how the Northwest Georgia Regional Cancer Coalition is pulling its resources together.
Gov. Roy Barnes earmarked Georgia’s tobacco settlement money to pay for the Georgia Cancer Coalition, with plans to develop Regional Cancer Centers across the state. The 12-county Northwest Georgia coalition is one of eight regional groups that were awarded planning grants to develop applications in hopes of being designated a Regional Program of Excellence.
The regional designation is the first step in possibly being named a Center of Excellence, which recognizes programs that have significant sustained research and educational background.
“A Center of Excellence is distinguished by the breadth and depth of cancer research and treatment and physician research that goes on,” Toal said.
During Tuesday’s visit, the Georgia Cancer Coalition members heard reports from several cancer treatment, research and educational programs from across the region. The programs included:
l The Oncology Nurse Navigator Program being developed by Floyd College. This program will allow nurses and nursing students to take a specific oncology nursing course of study over the Internet and at community clinical sites.
l The third-year Radiation Therapist Program being developed at Coosa Valley Technical College. There is a shortage in this field and this third year will allow students to become more thoroughly trained for careers in radiation therapy.
l The Industry Screening Initiative in Dalton, which will provide outreach to carpet industry employees and their families in the work environment. This pilot initiative will be used as a model for other industries throughout the region.
l The Pediatric Partnership between the Harbin Clinic in Rome and Scottish Rite Hospital and Egleston Hospital in Atlanta for referral and care of children with cancer.
l The Integrative Oncology Therapy Program that will encompass many complementary therapies for cancer treatment such as yoga, “touch-therapy,” nutrition and other evidence-based therapies for cancer patients. This program will treat the “whole” patient and their families, not just the cancer itself.
The Rome visit is the first of eight site visits the Georgia Cancer Coalition is conducting across the state with regions that received planning grants in June.
The coalition will be evaluating the progress being made in each region, as well as the types of programs being developed. The state coalition will then offer suggestions and comments as to the direction the regional coalitions are taking.
The regional coalition’s draft application is due Dec. 2 and the final version is due Feb. 28, 2003. Between the two dates, Georgia Cancer Coalition representatives will work with the various regions to “fine-tune” the applications, Toal said.
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THE CANCER GAP: 2ND IN A SERIES
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: 9/29/02 ]
THE CANCER GAP: SECOND IN A SERIES
What if a doctor had recommended an annual mammogram?
What if a friend had simply explained how to do a breast exam?
What if there had been health insurance? A paycheck? A car?
By PATRICIA GUTHRIE
Atlanta Journal-Constitution Staff Writer
PHIL SKINNER / AJC
Without a car, Rebecca Simpson walked about a mile from her North Avenue apartment complex (background) to Crawford Long Hospital every three weeks while undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. She often returned by bus because of heat and her fatigue.
ABOUT THE SERIES
The Cancer Gap is an occasional series examining Georgia's efforts to reduce cancer deaths. Black men in Georgia die from prostate cancer at a rate 2.5 times greater than whites, and breast cancer kills black women at a rate one-third greater than the rate among whites. To address the disparities, the state has mounted the Georgia Cancer Coalition, a 10-year effort to bring top researchers and new treatments to the area and boost cancer screening and prevention efforts.
• Disparities fuel ambitious effort
• Q & A with Gov. Roy Barnes
• Cancer: By the numbers
• Cancer Information Resources
She sits and stares. Sits, stares and spins through a familiar list of what if, what if?
Everyday life grinds on below her small apartment balcony overlooking North Avenue. Honking cars. Sputtering buses. Bits of breezing-by conversation.
It's a perfect sunny Atlanta day, but not one she can truly enjoy. The reason is etched in X-marks on a wall calendar in her living room. On every month since December, the 17th day has been crossed out with a pen. January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August. How many more months? How many more calendars?
"It's cancer. It's death," Rebecca Simpson says, still reeling from the breast cancer diagnosis that changed her life last year. "It's automatic. You just think you're dying when they tell you it's cancer. But on the 17th of every month, the day of my surgery, I thank God I'm still alive."
She can't know what will be. She can't guess what might have occurred if so many things had been so different: her bank account, her health care, maybe even the color of her skin.
All she knows for sure is what it says on her medical file: African-American female, 61, breast cancer. And because the tumor had spread to her lymph nodes and was discovered late, she must live with the knowledge that the odds aren't as good as they would have been had the cancer been caught in its earliest stages, when it's 96 percent curable.
"I thought it wasn't anything I'd have to deal with," she quietly reveals. "Of course, I've heard about it, read about it and seen it on television. But since no one in my family ever had cancer, I didn't think about it. I thought I was exempt."
Last October, Simpson learned what some 33,000 other Georgians find out every year: No one is immune to cancer.
Her journey began with a weird bump under her right arm. She happened to have a mammogram scheduled that week. She hadn't undergone the X-ray procedure -- recommended annually for women over 50 -- since 1997, when she lost her private health coverage and her full-time job.
The tumor turned out to be relatively small -- usually good news. Eight days before Christmas, Crawford Long Hospital surgeon Brian Organ removed her right breast, then made a disheartening discovery. Seventeen of 20 nearby lymph nodes contained cancer.
The general rule: Survival decreases as the number of cancerous nodes increases.
Simpson says her doctors have yet to answer the Big Question.
"When I asked my surgeon, 'Did you get all the cancer?' He told me, 'Well, Miss Simpson, I got all I saw,' " she says. "They never did tell me my chances of survival."
Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in Georgia and the United States, behind cardiovascular disease. Blacks in Georgia are 27 percent more likely to die of cancer than whites. In metro Atlanta, black women die from breast cancer at a rate 67 percent greater than white women. Prostate cancer kills black men in metro Atlanta at a rate 182 percent greater than white men.
"In the United States, it is bad to have cancer; it is worse to be poor and have cancer; and it is even worse to be poor, black and have cancer." -- Dr. Otis Brawley, Emory University Winship Cancer Institute
Rebecca Simpson is the rule, not the exception, when it comes to cancer. Odds conspired against her even before her diagnosis.
In Georgia, as across the nation, blacks are at greater risk for cancer. They die more often from breast, prostate, colon and pancreatic cancers, and they're more likely than whites to receive substandard treatment.
Overall, blacks are 27 percent more likely to die from cancer than whites. No other race or ethnic group is ravaged by cancer as much as African-Americans.
For decades, scientists suspected genetics might be to blame for the disparity. But studies have shown that blacks are no less likely to survive cancer than whites, if diagnosis, treatment and access to medical care are equalized.
Health experts cite many factors in the cancer gap: poverty, lack of health insurance, lack of transportation to get to a doctor, inadequate access to cancer screenings or not taking advantage of preventive measures.
Other variables may influence the statistical picture, including diet, environment, lifestyle, distrust of doctors, fear that cancer is inevitably fatal and belief in home or religious remedies.
Studies have also shown that blacks are more likely to suffer from heart disease, high blood pressure and other diseases that can interfere with cancer treatment. They may also receive inferior therapy in different stages of the disease when compared with whites, studies show. Many cancer specialists believe the divide isn't simply a matter of black and white. It's also a factor of economics: the haves and have-nots.
"Equal access to equal treatment leads to equal outcomes," is the mantra of Dr. Otis Brawley, one of the nation's authorities on cancer disparity. Emory University's Winship Cancer Institute recruited Brawley from the National Cancer Institute two years ago. He'll lead a new cancer center at Grady Hospital that's designed to get at barriers to care. Late diagnosis is known to be a major culprit in the black/white and rich/poor cancer gap. Not having access to, or not taking advantage of, cancer screening greatly affects chances of survival, experts say.
"The reason African-Americans die at a higher rate than Caucasians is we present ourselves to the doctor at such an advanced stage of cancer," says Charlie Stayton, executive director of the Witness Project, a health program designed to educate African-Americans about cancer through churches and community centers.
Started in Arkansas a dozen years ago, the project has been replicated in 20 states, including Georgia, through funding by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
"We need to take action. We just can't sit there hoping cancer will go away," stresses Stayton, an 18-year survivor of cervical cancer. "Each day that we wait will possibly take years off our lives."
Rural residents can be particularly stung by advanced-stage cancer, says Rita Salain of the Southwest Georgia Community Health Institute. Based in Albany, the coalition is developing a cancer attack plan for 38 surrounding counties. Its analysis of Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital data found 40 percent of all breast cancer patients were discovered in late stages of the disease, and nearly two-thirds of Medicaid and uninsured cancer cases had an initial diagnosis of cancer that had spread.
The largest number of uninsured cancer cases was among black females, ages 45 to 54.
"It's a poverty issue. It's an education issue. It's an availability of care issue," says Salain. "We have way too many people down here with late-stage diagnosis. If we really want to get a handle on cancer rates, we have got to diagnose earlier."
One in two males and one in three females will develop cancer in their lifetimes, most after their 54th birthday. Every 38 minutes, someone dies of cancer in Georgia.
"Inherent in the diagnosis of cancer is loss of control, loss of hope, unwanted aloneness." -- Jill Hall, cancer survivor, Georgia Cancer Coalition community liaison
Heat and humidity soar in Simpson's one-bedroom apartment on the second floor of the Cosby Spear federal housing complex. Outside, a small ceiling fan loses the fight to cool off her balcony. Sitting in a green plastic chair, floppy straw hat on her head, Simpson watches sidewalk people she's come to know.
"Now, this man here, he runs every day," she says of the skinny white guy, swimming in a shirtless sweat. "Not fast, but he runs."
She chuckles in a low lilt, lets loose in a full-throttle laugh. Her easy laughter, like her breathy voice, contrasts her height, broad shoulders, sturdy build and round face. She sounds more like her wide brown eyes look: joyful, friendly, sincere.
She's by nature a positive force. Smiling. Greeting. Long, pink fingernails. A high, lyrical voice rising and falling like the hours of the day.
"How are you doing this morning?" she asks of a tiny elderly lady on the elevator. "Doesn't it look beautiful today?"
Simpson's also quick on the draw with wry observations and one-liners. Take the time she's in a fitting room, trying on a bra with a prosthesis: "I'll never get a man now," she laughs. "They hardly love you with two breasts. With one, my chances are slim to none."
Gold hoop earrings. Jangling necklaces. Bands of bracelets. Whether out to see another doctor or to meet a girlfriend for lunch, she's looking good, even if she's feeling rotten.
Occasionally, there are other things Simpson wears as well: doubt, sadness, fear.
"My life really has so many voids in it. I don't have a companion. I don't have any children. I don't have a close-knit family, and now this. You wonder. It makes you wonder."
She's always been somewhat of a loner, she admits. But that's by choice, mind you. Still, she opens up on the telephone to close friends and her ex-husband, a man she divorced in 1982 after 10 years of marriage. "I called an old friend in Virginia, and she asked me, 'Why you keep talking negative like you're gonna die?' I told her, I've lost so many friends to cancer, it makes you think.
"One man I knew, he was healthy, jogging every day, and then his stomach just started hurting. It was too late. He had colon cancer. He had surgery in March. By May, that man was dead." But Simpson isn't competing for pity.
Sure, maybe her breast cancer would have been caught sooner if she wasn't poor, if getting to the doctor was easier, if she had regular checkups, if a health worker saw to it that Simpson received annual breast exams. But she also knows the cancer could be worse.
"I can't feel sorry for myself," she says. "There's this 33-year-old woman with two children I've gotten to know at treatment. They were going to give her chemo, but I think she's too sick. She had cancer in one breast, then in came back on the other, and they took that one too.
"I have lived almost double her life. That's why I don't complain."
Women on Medicaid are three times more likely to die of breast cancer compared with women who have private health insurance, a recent Michigan State University study found. In Georgia, about 3,200 patients a year diagnosed with cancer lack health insurance.
"BreastTest and More [a state program] gives free clinical breast exams and Pap smears to uninsured and low-income women. But with the funding we get, we can only reach 14,000 women a year --15 percent of our target audience. The demand exists; the dollars do not." -- Carol Steiner, director, Georgia Cancer Control program
Poor, black, living on the edge, Simpson personifies many of the challenges facing low-income cancer patients. If it's not one barrier or hassle, it's another as she maneuvers through the maze of doctors, therapy, side effects, bills and pills.
Take chemotherapy. She walked about a mile from her North Avenue apartment to Crawford Long Hospital every three weeks.
That wasn't the hard part.
The two-hour procedure sometimes took six, seven, eight hours.
Because of the wait.
For blood lab results to come back, treatment rooms to clear out, lost orders to be found.
"One day I went in for chemotherapy in the morning and came out when it was dark."
Simpson wasn't keen on receiving her treatment regimen at Grady Hospital because of her past experience of long waits, and of being seen by physicians' assistants. It's also not within walking distance of her home.
But she credits Grady for steering her to a relatively new state program called Women's Health Medicaid. It extends Medicaid benefits to low-income women without health insurance who need breast or cervical cancer treatment.
The program is partly funded by Georgia's share of the landmark settlement with tobacco companies, but it barely covers the need.
Simpson found help at the nearby Northeast Health Center, affiliated with the Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness. There, nurse Brenda Raper signed her up for the new Medicaid and gave her the names of cooperating doctors.
When not going to medical appointments, Simpson spends her days surrounded by reflections of her former life, when she had a full-time job and could afford the niceties that make a space a home. A glass and chrome dining table, three TVs, wine glasses sparkling from a small display cabinet, matching towel sets in the bathroom.
Hard times fell four years ago when Simpson's longtime federal government career ended, temp jobs couldn't pay the rent on her southwest Atlanta duplex, and she went through her savings. She didn't think she'd end up here.
"I just wanted some assistance to help me through. I didn't want it for the rest of my life," Simpson says. "The rent is the lowest it can be, $25 plus $9 electric bill and the phone bill. All the other bills, I don't even bother opening."
She had paid $425 monthly rent for a couple of years at the federal housing complex when she went back to full-time work. But that job ended, cancer began and new worries set in.
She lives on her monthly $225 public-assistance check plus $135 in food stamps. Her food stamp card looks like a credit card with an American flag sweeping across it. For prescriptions, her co-pay is 50 cents.
She applied for disability payments based on her inability to work during cancer treatment, but was turned down. An attorney is now fighting for her.
"Out of $225, I have to pay for toiletries, dish detergent, body soap and other items like that. It doesn't last. At the end of the month, I have no money. Right now I'm drinking Ensure for breakfast and lunch."
Cosby Spear is clean and well-kept, with security cameras and silk flowers at the entrance, a new television sitting room and walls of colorful fliers announcing activities and health screenings.
"Living here is a blessing," she says. "I would have had to move in with a friend without it. I like living alone. I'm not homeless, and I have the dignity of having my own place. I have the same quality of life as I had before, except without change in my pocket."
Simpson knows what it's like to be on both sides of the haves and the have-nots.
"I had Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the high-option plan," she recalls. "You can see the doctors are going to give you the good care because they respect that insurance card. They sure do.
"Without insurance, you don't go see a doctor as often as you should. Poor people are struggling to survive. They're living day to day, they're worried about keeping a roof over their head, and they're thinking of their family. They only think of going to a doctor when they need it. The preventive side, they don't do too much of that."
Living alone only adds to Simpson's personal struggle.
Following her December surgery, three episodes of severe infections landed her back in the hospital.
But first, she had to get to the emergency room.
"I was weak, throwing up, ran a temperature for four days. I felt really, really sick," she remembers. "I didn't have money for a cab. But I'm a determined person. Somehow, I crossed the street and got on the bus. I could hardly walk."
Comparing two groups of women with advanced breast cancer, Dr. David Spiegel of Stanford University found that women who attended weekly support groups lived twice as long as those who did not.
"They need to be talking to other people with cancer and sharing their stories, and to hear, 'You can get through this.' They need to know people do survive cancer and that they have a quality of life." -- Ameila Williams, head of social work for Grady Hospital's oncology patients
Rebecca Simpson's umbrella snaps open as she strides up North Avenue's concrete slope. Steady rain turns to drizzle by the time she cuts across the Publix parking lot on the corner of Piedmont.
Ten minutes later, she arrives at the office of her medical oncologist, Dr. Laura Weakland, near Crawford Long Hospital.
"I was going to cure myself through prayer and herbs," Simpson says, passing time in the waiting room. "The doctors said, 'That's great,' but I needed," she stops in mid-sentence, feigns a big sigh, " 'modern medicine.'
"So, I figured God put doctors here for us. But if I had the money, I'd go to Mexico."
Weakland checks out Simpson's complaints: the blood blister on her foot, the sores in her mouth, the numbness in her arm. "Overall, I'm doing good," Simpson tells her. "I don't know how the cancer's doing, but I'm OK."
"What cancer?" Weakland says, looking up.
"Yes, what cancer?" Simpson repeats the hopeful humor.
A dose of good news/bad news comes next.
No more chemo. But now it's time for radiation.
Simpson's face falls.
"You didn't tell me about radiation," she says, her high voice getting even higher. "That's news to me."
Radiation had always been part of the treatment plan, Weakland responds. She gently suggests maybe Simpson forgot what she was told during the initial anxious days of diagnosis.
"Chemotherapy took care of any cancer cells that may have gone to other organs," the oncologist explains. "What we're also worried about is under the arm because you could have local recurrence. Normally, when you have a mastectomy, you don't need radiation. But it's worrisome for someone who's had four or five or more positive nodes."
Simpson's glad to hear that mouth ulcers, bleeding gums and burning lips -- all side effects of chemo -- will be a thing of the past. But what will radiation bring?
"It makes me feel that my cancer is kind of serious," she says, a shadow falling over her eyes. But within seconds, her humor, her spirit returns. "But it can't make this scar any uglier than it is," she says laughing.
That prediction turns out to be wrong.
Six weeks later, after daily radiation, the right side of Simpson's leveled chest is burned charcoal black. A temporary condition, she's told, one that will clear up.
"I just can't believe this. Look at it," she says, carefully folding up one side of her blouse. "It hurts so much. It's so painful, I can't even stand to put ice on it."
This year, 13,700 Georgians are expected to die from cancer. The total economic loss from worker productivity and medical care due to cancer: $3.9 billion in the state; $160 billion nationally. Half of cancer medical costs are spent in a patient's last six months of life.
"One out of two patients will not be here sitting talking to me in eight years. It's sad. I'm never going to be out of a job." -- Medical oncologist Laura Weakland
Sometimes Simpson feels so good she forgets that she has cancer.
That it's with her for life.
Other times, she wonders why there's so many people with so many kinds of cancers, why scientists haven't figured out how to stop it, why they don't know yet what causes it.
"I didn't use to hear so much about cancer. What is it, in the food? Every time you turn around, someone has cancer. Cancer, cancer, cancer, cancer, cancer.
"You wonder why," Simpson ponders one steaming summer day, shaded under her balcony overhang.
"I was always trying to eat healthy. My grandmother taught me that. She cooked well-balanced, nutritious meals.
"It doesn't matter. It made no difference."
Simpson steps inside to look through mail and papers on her phone table.
From the pile, she produces an invitation to the Celebration of Living 2002 conference, held in early June.
She had looked forward to the half-day affair at the Cobb Galleria Centre. For the first time, she wanted to reach out to others with cancer. Meet them, learn from them, hope with them.
Sponsored by the Winship Cancer Institute, about 600 cancer survivors attended the free workshops on topics ranging from nutrition and diet to healing and the human spirit. A banquet lunch and appearances by Gov. Roy Barnes and Hamilton Jordan -- chief of staff under President Carter and three-time cancer survivor -- were also featured.
Genetic screening, vaccines and the future of cancer research were themes extolled by Barnes, who received a standing ovation.
But Simpson never heard a word. She couldn't get there.
"They said they had vans to pick people up so I called right away and gave them my address but they never called back," she says. "It was supposed to make you feel good, but now I feel bad, like I don't count."
Organizers say it's possible she was inadvertently overlooked. But whatever happened, it gives Simpson another moment to indulge in her insightful humor.
"Maybe my address gave me away," she chuckles, letting herself out her apartment door before striding down the hall. "They knew I was poor people."
Waiting for the elevator, her gray, fuzzy head tilts back in a surge of delight.
"I'm going to call the governor," she declares. "That's what I'm going to do."
Then she's out the front entrance, headed for the bus stop.
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Q & A WITH GOVERNOR BARNES ON CANCER CARE
Atlanta Journal Constitution, September 24, 2002
Gov. Roy Barnes is attempting to bridge the gaps in Georgia's cancer care with the $1 billion Georgia Cancer Coalition, a 10-year effort supporters designed to bring top researchers and new treatments to the area, boost cancer screening and prevention efforts and become a job engine driving the economy in the coming decade. Barnes discussed his motivation and the goals of the program with AJC staff writer David Wahlberg. A transcript of that interview follows.
Q: How did you decide to create the Georgia Cancer Coalition?
A: Southerners , which includes Georgians -- in particular elements of our population -- have a disproportionate share of cancer. That would have been a good and sufficient reason to have created the Georgia Cancer Coalition. But at the same time we know there is not a comprehensive cancer center here in Georgia, and the closest one for most of the population is the University of Alabama in Birmingham. The whole idea of the state having an obligation to be the best in cancer treatment and also having to have a comprehensive plan that incorporates prevention and screening, treatment and research was the driving need for it. As a by-product of that, if we pull this off, then it also jump starts a biotech, biomedical industry. Whichever state in a region becomes dominant in biotech, it's going to be like chip manufacturing in the last generation. It is going to be an economic boon.
Q: Hamilton Jordan, along with Jonathan Simons and Michael Johns, met with you back in February 2000. What about their presentation caught your attention? How much had you been thinking about this before?
A: I know Hamilton real well, and I know Dr. Johns real well. We had been talking about this over a period of time, about coming up with a comprehensive cancer plan for the state. I'm an old hospital lawyer, so health care policy is one of my wonk areas. Dr. Johns told us, "There's this bright, young guy at Johns Hopkins named Jonathan Simons, can you help recruit him?" I called him, and we immediately clicked. I told him, "If you will come and help me build the plan, I will dedicate some funds to it." And he did. Hamilton, Michael Johns and Jonathan Simons became my kitchen cabinet on how to put this together.
Q: Georgia is behind other states in some aspects of cancer, like research funding, the racial disparity between blacks and whites, rural access to care. Why have those problems persisted so long, and are you trying to bring Georgia up to a level playing field or make it even better than other states?
A: Georgia grew , and our population grew , and we were more concerned, rightfully or wrongfully so, with physical infrastructure, rather than any type of health services. It's just a maturing process of why we were behind. Georgia should be number one in a comprehensive care plan for the nation, and it has the opportunity to be through the Georgia Cancer Coalition.
Q: How do you determine if it's number one?
A: There's only one other state right now that's as aggressive in providing a comprehensive cancer plan, and that's Pennsylvania. Georgia and Pennsylvania is where the race is being run, and we have the opportunity to win the race. We definitely have the opportunity to be dominant in the southeast.
Q: What competing interests were there for the tobacco money, and why did you decide to portion a good chunk of it to cancer?
A: Everybody wanted something. We made a decision the first year I was governor that the tobacco funds gave us a wonderful opportunity to make a difference, and that it should not simply be used as another revenue stream for the state treasury. We went to the general assembly and said, "We want to set these funds, for budgetary purposes, in a whole different accounting method." I said two-thirds of it should go to health, that it enhancement in the health area, and one third should go to rural economic development to help offset a lot of the changes that are occurring. Where other states have used these funds to balance their budgets, to patch, to build prisons, to borrow against or to securitize and reduce the present cash value and use it for a little crisis, we have been able to maintain the discipline. The first thing we did in health was that we put a medical professional in every school. We expanded some Medicaid coverages to pregnant mothers that are 235 percent of poverty level. Then we pushed away everyone else who had a little special project and said, alright, the big initiative we're going to have in addition to those is going to on the Georgia Cancer Coalition. We said we would put $400 million over a five- to seven-year period, but it's a private-public partnership. We're not just going to dump it into the department of health. Through federal research funds, private partners, business partners, philanthropic and charitable groups, we're going to bring in another $600 million and have a $1 billion fund with objective goals. And we decided not to run it through the bureaucracy but to create a separate non-profit that will determine the overall plan and establish the accountability.
Q: How did you arrive at the $400 million figure? That's about a tenth of the $4.8 billion overall tobacco settlement (for Georgia, which could be reduced to $4.2 billion or less).
A: But it's a much higher percentage over the five to seven years. The settlement is over 25 years. It's a very high percentage of the five to seven years. This is perfect, because you will jump-start it so much. For example, the eminent scholars are going to be placed in public universities and private universities and other centers. After you carry them for a few years, they'll be picked up by formula funding of the university system. How did we get to that amount? We backed into it, by saying what are the goals we want to accomplish, what is the budget for that, what can we work out privately and publicly. I had all the leaders for the business, philanthropic and charitable groups for breakfast in the mansion and said, "This is what we're thinking about doing. You've got to put up yours. If you're not willing to participate in this, you need to tell us now." They were all very receptive. And we've had conversations with NCI, which has been very supportive and interested. And then the National Dialogue on Cancer, which has really been a very good advocate for us.
Q: Are you meeting the goal on the private funds?
A. We are. We're moving along. Avon was our first one. Woodruff has been (anonymously) pledged to us. Of course you have to understand we're just starting on this. We knew the state would front-load a large part. The federal (grants) are included in the $600 million, and that is the largest slug. We brought (NCI head) Andy Von Eschenbach down last month, and he has been very supportive of us. The pitch we make is, "Listen, in all the NCI funding that comes up, you can leverage up with us. We're willing to put in money of our own so you get a longer bang for your buck." The draw to the private drug companies is this is a large, controlled clinical trial that allows them to get to approval faster. And you've got to make sure the clinical trials are paid for, the care. We've got all these private insurers that agreed that as long as a trial came through the Georgia Cancer Coalition, they would cover it.
Q: Your niece Nancy died from cancer at age 32. How are she or others personally motivating you to target cancer?
A: There's not a family in Georgia that has not been touched in some way by cancer. We're all touched by this, not just me. I don't want people thinking I'm spending all this money just because I have a family problem. But my family has good things and bad things. They generally live a long time, and they generally don't have heart disease or strokes. But they have cancer. I've had an uncle, two aunts and a grandmother who died of cancer, mostly colon cancer, which has a high genetic connection. Six years ago, my niece, who went to Georgia Tech and was an accountant in one of our family businesses, who was married and had a five year old little boy, had lymphoma and she died. And it's the type of cancer that has an 80 percent cure -- Hodgkins, the same type Hamilton had, but he survived. It was a shock to all of us. My father is still alive. He's 86 years old. My grandfather was 83 when he died in the 1950s, which was just unheard of. Because it has stricken those who are close to me, it has had a very personal interest, that we should be doing a better job.
Q: Was her cancer caught late?
A: With Hodgkin's, generally if it's above the waist, the gut, you're OK. She first had it in her neck. They did surgery and radiation. Then it reoccurred below the waist. She developed complications in the lungs from the amount of radiation and that caused her death. This is one of the reasons I'm interested in alternative ways (of treating cancer). It was not really caught very late. With the mapping of the human genome, we know that cancer really falls into several large categories. Some are viral based. There's another large group that has genetic connections. And then you have environmental bases for it and then you have some unknown etiologies. We know colon cancer has a high genetic connection -- 80 to 85 percent, some of the studies show. With the mapping of the human genome -- this is not science fiction, this is here today that you're going to be able to do this -- when a child is born, they're going to be able to genetically screen that child and tell you whether that child has a propensity genetically to develop colon cancer. The next step -- which they're taking right now, and this is some of the exciting stuff happening in research, right here in this state -- is they will be able to give that child some type of vaccine in the first few years of life that will change that propensity. That's the most exciting stuff I've ever seen. When those vaccines are developed, wherever they are given in the world, I want the doctor who administers the vaccine to flip on the back of the package and it says, "Made in Georgia." That is within the realm of not only possibility, but if we play our cards right, if we stay focused and do this right, it is highly probable.
Q: Why is that such a goal? What difference does it make if it's made in New York or Georgia?
A: It creates jobs. Our economy is changing. We know that biotech is going to be the new job creator in the next generation. The question is whether we're going to be a player in biotech. We're building jobs for the next generation of Georgians.
Q: What is your goal in biotech, in terms of how much growth you're hoping this will lead to?
A: My goal is that Georgia become the biotech leader in the southeast, which includes Texas. In the early '80s, there was a big competition between Austin, Texas and Atlanta, Georgia, as to where chip manufacturing would start. And it went to Austin. It changed that whole region and helped propel that state into the now the second or third largest state in the nation. Georgia has the potential to have a jump-start in biotech, even though Texas is larger and wealthier.
Q: The biotech industry has softened a little bit since you started the coalition. Does that affect your expectations?
A: No. We look upon it as opportunities. It's opportunities to compete for new biotech, particularly start-ups and companies that are looking at (clinical) trials. We tell these private partners, "You need to put a research office near our comprehensive research centers. You need to have a place here in Georgia." Last Saturday, I had all of the valedictorians here come, (as I do) once a year, private and public schools, and I asked them, "Where are you from? Where are you going to school? And what do you want to study?" There were seven that were staying here in Georgia to become biomedical engineers. There's a joint program between (Georgia) Tech and Emory. Biotech and biomedical and biomedical engineering are just boom fields for us. They are industries of the mind. This is the ultimate industry of the mind. Our goal was to recruit 150 eminent scholars and have three comprehensive cancer centers. We have recruited 44. Just look at what the addition of that is.
Q: Initially the idea was that three comprehensive cancer centers in Georgia would be NCI centers, and since then it seems like one for now (Emory).
A: We hope all three ultimately will become NCI centers. It's a competitive process. I doubt if NCI would designate three at one time. But we know, we think through the effort, we'll get at least one. And then I think the other two, as our centers of excellence, will come along and eventually be three NCI centers.
Q: Significant money is going to screening and treatment, but a lot of it is going to research. Some people think even more should go to treatment and screening and prevention. Why so much on research?
A: One of the goals is to have a bioinformation system that connects research, treatment and prevention and screening. The research becomes part of the treatment. For example, you could have a comprehensive cancer center, and a physician in deep South Georgia, with a bioinformation connection, could give information about a specific patient, could forward blood and tissue to a blood and tissue (bank) and those research could tell you, "Look, this is the cutting edge research we have, and this is the closets treatment center and by the way we're running these clinical trials and you should talk to your patient about whether they want to be part of this clinical trial." The research provides the cutting edge back-up for the treatment. One of the reasons children do well in surviving cancer is that a majority of children are in clinical trials. With the adults, I've seen numbers that say less than 2 percent are in clinical trials.
Q: You've allocated $400 million of tobacco settlement money to the cancer effort over five to seven years. What if you're not re-elected? Will it carry on?
A: We've tried to make the case to the state of Georgia so stronger. The medical community is very excited. Everywhere I go, they want to talk about cancer. We've also reached out to the survivors, and those who have been touched by it. You create such a base for it, that even if I'm gone, it will continue. I certainly hope so. It would be a tragedy not to continue this. But it's subject to the general assembly, and every year it's just one of those things. I think the Georgia Cancer Coalition has one of the greatest long-term potentials of anything we've done.
Q: Is it more about attacking the problem now or in the future?
A: It's about attacking it now so the problem is not larger in the future and at the same time being able to jump-start an industry that is embryonic, that is biotech and biomedical.
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THE CANCER GAP: FATAL DISPARITIES FUEL AMBITIOUS EFFORT IN GEORGIA
On a mission: The Georgia Cancer Coalition is spending $1 billion in a 10-year effort to fix problems across the state.
David Wahlberg - Staff
Tuesday, September 24, 2002
A cancer divide runs through Georgia along a racial fault line, with black men dying from prostate cancer at a rate 2 1/2 times greater than whites, and breast cancer killing black women at a rate one-third greater than whites.
For every 100,000 white people in the state, 161 die from cancer each year. For African-Americans, it's 205.
Other cancer chasms run through the state, due to a paucity of research funding, poor access to care in rural areas and unhealthy lifestyles.
Gov. Roy Barnes is trying to bridge the gaps with the $1 billion Georgia Cancer Coalition, a 10-year effort that supporters say will lure top researchers and new treatments, boost cancer screening and prevention efforts and become a job engine driving the economy in the coming decade.
"I'm not aware of anybody who has picked up on this as intensively as Georgia has," said Dr. Robert Young, president of the American Cancer Society and an oncologist who directs the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. "Georgia has a very clear vision of what it wants to accomplish."
But more questions than answers exist on whether the state's experiment will work, and many cancer experts are taking a wait-and-see attitude.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution interviewed more than 100 cancer specialists, policy experts and patients to assess the prospects for Georgia's war on cancer.
Sources included leaders of federally funded cancer centers, heads of cancer advocacy groups, private practitioners, cancer support-group leaders and individual patients.
Many agree that the centerpiece of Barnes' plan --- creating a federally designated cancer center at Emory University and encouraging biotech start-ups through seed grants and the hiring of scientists --- is a smart way to discover novel cancer therapies.
But others say some promising experimental treatments, such as drugs targeting cancer's molecular mutations, won't be available to most Georgia cancer patients for years. They say the coalition should focus on delivering today's cancer medicines to more people for a bigger short-term impact.
Some experts question whether Georgia can emerge from the pack as a biotech leader. Although the state moved from 11th to 9th in biotech business, according to the latest annual Ernst & Young biotech-industry report, it isn't even close to the well-established top tier of biotech-rich states: California, Massachusetts, Maryland and North Carolina.
Other competitors, such as Texas and Michigan, are investing heavily in biotech, competing for some of the same dollars and researchers Barnes hopes to attract to Georgia.
Questions are also being raised about the coalition's goal of bringing more experimental clinical trials to Georgia cancer patients, largely through Emory's expanded Winship Cancer Institute and a cancer center under construction at Grady Memorial Hospital. Many studies of such treatments are already available through private doctors in the state, so it's unclear how many additional patients will benefit from a larger effort.
In addition, millions are being spent on anti-smoking programs, some of them styled after those in place in the 1990s. But smoking rates among Georgia adults have gone up in the past decade, raising doubts about whether the state's attempts to curb cigarettes are on the right track.
While few cancer experts are publicly critical of the coalition's goals, some privately wonder if the initiative will succeed at creating biotech firms and ensuring Barnes a legacy but not do as much to help the average cancer patient.
"They're all lofty ideas, but it's hard to tell at this point how successful they will be," said Dr. Bruce Feinberg, president of Georgia Cancer Specialists, an Atlanta practice with 22 offices in North and Middle Georgia.
Like many Southern states, Georgia has higher rates of heart disease, stroke, infant mortality, teen pregnancy and other health indicators than the national average. But few health problems are as troubling as Georgia's cancer profile.
A Journal-Constitution analysis of Georgia cancer statistics found four main cancer gaps:
> Race: Cancer kills African-Americans disproportionately nationwide, but the black-white disparity is even larger in Georgia for four of the five top cancer killers: prostate, breast, colon and pancreas. Only lung cancer has a relatively smaller racial gap here.
> Research: The state is the 10th most populous, but it ranks 25th in cancer research funding. Georgia is the only one of the 21 largest states without a cancer center recognized by the National Cancer Institute. That means some patients leave the state for cutting-edge care.
> Access: A third of the state's 159 counties don't have mammography facilities, and three out of four don't have doctors who specialize in cancer, meaning rural patients often have to make long trips to find a specialist.
> Lifestyles: Georgians' behaviors read like a prescription for cancer: Residents smoke more, eat fewer fruits and vegetables, don't exercise as much, are fatter and get fewer mammograms on average than people in other states.
These inequities may not have galvanized a new attack on cancer had it not been for a handful of powerful Georgians and, ironically, the tobacco industry.
Roots of a coalition
Hamilton Jordan had Georgia's cancer gaps in mind while attending a Christmas party in 1999 at the home of Emory trustee George Overend. While sampling holiday treats, the three-time cancer survivor, who was White House chief of staff under President Jimmy Carter, met Dr. Michael Johns, head of Emory's health care system and a cancer specialist.
The two got to talking about where Georgia fell short in cancer care. Johns invited Jordan to his house for a follow-up conversation on New Year's Eve, and they arranged a meeting with Barnes in February. They brought along Dr. Jonathan Simons, whom Johns had recently tapped to lead Winship.
The three presented a slide show with surveys detailing the public's tremendous fear of cancer, lists of hopeful experimental cancer drugs and forecasts for booming biotech development. Then Jordan and the two doctors asked Barnes to spend $10 million a year to enhance cancer research and improve the delivery of cancer care.
A factor that played into their timing: Georgia was due to get $4.8 billion from national tobacco company lawsuit settlements over two decades. Barnes said he saw an opportunity to invest some of that money in an initiative with humanitarian and economic appeal.
"We had the spark, and the governor blew it into a flame," Johns said.
In November 2000, the governor announced the Georgia Cancer Coalition, saying it would be funded by up to $400 million of the tobacco money over five to seven years. Private money, from foundations and corporations, and federal research grants could bring the total to $1 billion over 10 years.
The state Legislature votes on whether to approve each year's funding for the coalition, and it has strongly supported the plan so far. Barnes' Republican opponent in this fall's election, former state Sen. Sonny Perdue, said in an interview that he would want the same amount of tobacco money going to fight cancer.
For Barnes, "The driving need for it . . . [was] the whole idea of the state having an obligation to be the best in cancer treatment and also having a comprehensive plan that incorporates prevention and screening, treatment and research," the governor said in a recent interview.
One of the Barnes' desires is that news stories about new therapies, such as cancer vaccines, might someday focus on Atlanta.
"When those vaccines are developed, wherever they are given in the world, I want the doctor who administers the vaccine to flip on the back of the package and it says, 'Made in Georgia,' " he said.
'This will help them'
No one can say for sure if Barnes' plan is visionary or a pipe dream. But one thing is certain: He's not alone in seeing biotech as a way to boost the economy and public health. Many other states are mounting cancer-related efforts focusing on prevention, research or biotech.
North Carolina has launched a massive public awareness campaign, training primary care doctors to spot colon cancer and taking out newspaper ads displaying warning signs for breast and cervical cancer.
In Pennsylvania, a coalition of eight cancer centers is spending tobacco settlement money on "bioinformatics," computers that enhance biology research.
Michigan has allotted $1 billion in its tobacco funds over 20 years for a "life sciences corridor" to lure biotech firms.
But few states, if any, are staging as broad a battle as Georgia is against the nation's No. 2 killer, after heart disease. And the state has a lot of ground to cover to achieve a level playing field.
"There's a feeling that Georgia is behind in cancer," said Dr. Paul Bunn, president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the nation's largest group of cancer doctors, and director of the University of Colorado Cancer Center. "This will help them catch up."
Russ Toal, president of the Georgia Cancer Coalition and former commissioner of the state Department of Community Health, said the group's measurable goals are to detect cancer at earlier stages, bring down mortality rates, increase the percentage of patients in clinical trials and expand research funding.
Another goal, harder to quantify, is to encourage doctors, hospitals and health departments that often compete for patients and money to cooperate in the interest of public health. Already, conflicting interests in Savannah, Augusta, Albany, Rome and other parts of the state have come together to propose regional programs.
The competing Savannah hospital systems St. Joseph's/Candler and Memorial Health joined forces to form the Southeast Georgia Cancer Alliance, which was awarded one of eight planning grants this summer to try to become one of two or three state coalition "regional programs of excellence" to be named next year.
The Medical College of Georgia in Augusta and the University of Georgia in Athens also teamed up to win a planning grant. Some of the regional programs may eventually bid for the same federal recognition that Emory's Winship center intends to apply for next year.
Getting health care rivals to shake hands in the name of cancer is no easy feat, but it could lead to collaboration on other medical issues, Toal said. "I've seen the health community working together on cancer like they've never coalesced on any other issue," he said.
Whether the coalition's goals will have a lasting impact on cancer in Georgia is open to debate. At least three areas have emerged as flashpoints in the discussion over the initiative --- in-state treatment options, anti-smoking programs and the overall use of tobacco money.
Keeping patients in the state
Of the $150 million in tobacco money distributed by the cancer coalition so far, more than a third has gone to research programs, newly recruited scientists and the Grady cancer center, with a common goal in mind --- helping Emory become a "comprehensive cancer center" recognized by the National Cancer Institute. That designation would allow Georgia patients to get more experimental treatments at home rather than traveling to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Institute in New York, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston or other prestigious facilities, backers say.
NCI centers have access to more experimental therapies in the government's research network, receive more money to initiate studies of their own and attract more pharmaceutical companies interested in testing new drugs on patients.
Coalition advocates, led by Jordan, repeatedly have said that four out of 10 Georgia cancer patients go out of state for care, notably to the University of Alabama-Birmingham's NCI cancer center. Having an NCI center at Emory would keep them here, they say.
But after a Journal-Constitution analysis found the 40 percent figure unsupportable, Jordan and the others said they didn't know where the figure came from. A newspaper survey of 13 of the top cancer centers in other states found that about 1,300 of Georgia's 33,000 newly diagnosed cancer patients --- less than half of 1 percent --- were treated at the centers last year. Just 79 new Georgia cancer patients were treated at Birmingham, according to UAB.
Most of the nation's NCI centers specialize in certain rare cancers, so some Georgia patients with those cancers likely would still travel out of state even if Emory received NCI status, many cancer doctors say.
Furthermore, several trials offered at UAB and other NCI centers are already available to Georgians through private cancer doctors.
"We are a comprehensive cancer center without walls," said Dr. Wendy Hawke, with Georgia Cancer Specialists, which funnels patients into studies at UAB, often delivering the treatments in Georgia.
"We're kind of lean and mean," added Dr. Charles Henderson, of Peachtree Hematology and Oncology, who is president of the Georgia Society of Clinical Oncologists. "At the NCI centers, there's a lot of fat."
About $56 million in coalition funds have gone to anti-smoking programs so far and $5 million to public education campaigns that include messages against cigarettes.
Similar programs were around in the 1990s, and smoking among Georgia adults rose 24 percent between 1992 and 2001, according to an annual survey by the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last year, 23.7 percent of adult Georgians smoked, compared to 19.1 percent in 1992.
Some public health experts suggest further restrictions on cigarettes, stronger enforcement of laws regarding tobacco sales to minors and prevention efforts targeted at younger children would do more to curb smoking.
"Take kids to pathology labs so they can see smoker's lungs," said Dr. Erich Randolph of Atlanta Oncology Associates. "That's how you really make an impact."
A Quit Line started last November and partly funded by the cancer coalition has generated more than 14,000 calls from Georgia smokers wanting to stop. That helps, as do television ads and teen peer programs, said Adele Cohen, executive director of the Georgia Alliance for Tobacco Prevention.
What's really needed, she said, is an increase in the state's cigarette tax. Georgia's tax is 12 cents per pack, the fourth lowest in the nation. At least 16 states have increased their cigarette tax this year. New Jersey's tax went up 70 cents and New York's rose 39 cents, for a total tax in both states of $1.50 per pack. New York City adds another $1.50 in local tax.
"When it's out of your pocket, it really has an effect, particularly on kids," Cohen said. "Doing those other programs in conjunction with raising the price of tobacco would really make a difference."
Other spending priorities
Some people question placing such a major focus on cancer in the first place. They say the state should spend more tobacco money on expanding Medicaid to cover more of Georgia's 1.2 million uninsured residents.
"Do we want Georgia to become the shining light on the hill by pulling cancer research from other places or do we want to become the shining light on the hill by making sure everyone has health care coverage?" asked public health advocate Linda Lowe, a lobbyist for several non-profit organizations.
Coalition organizers say Georgia's war on cancer will reap broad rewards by attacking the disease both today and in the future.
In the short term, the $28 million for Grady's cancer center, which is expected to open early next year, will target African-Americans and help address the racial disparity in care. Five rural hospitals have been given money to buy mammography equipment, and a $16 million expansion in treatment programs is helping poor people throughout the state.
To explore better ways of combatting cancer in years to come, 44 researchers have been lured by five-year grants from Johns Hopkins, Harvard and other top schools to Emory, Georgia Tech and institutions around the state. Another 100 will be sought.
A $3 million seed capital fund is helping biotech firms commercialize promising ideas.
Some of the research may spin off into fighting other diseases.
"You can't be a powerhouse in medicine without being one in cancer," Jordan said. "This gives Georgia a theme."
For Barnes, the battle is "about attacking [cancer] now so the problem is not larger in the future and at the same time being able to jump-start an industry that is embryonic --- that is, biotech."
As Barnes, Jordan, Toal and others note, the coalition has already achieved its first ambition --- elevating cancer to one of the main issues Georgia talks about. The next step is to translate the talk into action.
> ON THE WEB: More health news with AccessAtlanta and the AJC:
PROSTATE AND BREAST CANCER GAP
Blacks are more likely to die of breast and prostate cancer nationwide but the gap is wider in Georgia and even more so in metro Atlanta:
Blacks 162 percent higher
In metro Atlanta:
Blacks 182 percent higher
In United States:
Blacks 140 percent higher
Blacks 36 percent higher
In metro Atlanta:
Blacks 67 percent higher
In United States:
Blacks 30 percent higher
Note: Rates per 100,000 deaths
These black-white cancer mortality figures, based on information from 1994 to 1998, are being readjusted by the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Cancer Institute due to underestimates of African-American populations in the late 1990s, especially in metro Atlanta.
Officials say the overall picture will remain the same, but the rates may change slightly.
Sources: National Cancer Institute, Georgia Cancer Registry
/ MICHAEL DABROWA / Staff
Experts cite lifestyle issues as one reason for Georgia's cancer problem, froom people receiveing fewer mammograms and eating fewer healthy foods to having higher rates of smoking and obesity, especially in the late 1990s and 2000. Percentages refer to national or state population figures.
Line graphs show state and national trends in lifestyle issues from 1990 to 2000.
Georgia: 24% in 1990 to 23.5% in 2000
National: 23% in 1990 to 23.2% in 2000
NO MAMMOGRAM AND BREAST EXAM
Georgia: 31.7% in 1990 to 19.7% in 2000
National: 35.3% in 1990 to 18% in 2000
NO MAMMOGRAM WITHIN 2 YEARS
Georgia: 31.7% in 1990 to 23.9% in 2000
National: 41.7% in 1990 to 23.9% in 2000
NOT ENOUGH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
Georgia: 73.6% in 1994 to 77.7% in 2000
National: 78% in 1994 to 76.8% in 2000
OBESITY (by body mass index)
Georgia: 10.8% in 1990 to 21.5% in 2000
National: 11.6% in 1990 to 20.1 in 2000
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
/ MICHAEL DABROWA / Staff
GEORGIA CANCER COALITION SPENDING
The Georgia Cancer Coalition will spend up to $400 million of the state's tobacco settlement funds over five to seven years. Now in its third year, the coalition has allocated about $150 million. How the money will be spent (amount in millions):
Anti-smoking programs: $55.7 million
Grady cancer center: $28.4 million
New cancer researchers: $18.1 million
Treatment for the poor and uninsured: $16.5 million
Research equipment and support programs: $8.6 million
Screening: $7.1 million
Regional cancer centers: $5.7 million
Public education: $5.2 million
Georgia Cancer Coalition staff: $2.5 million
Training for cancer caregivers: $2 million
Total: $149.8 million
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CHILDHOOD CANCER SURVIVAL RATES UP
But new state study shows it is the third leading cause of death among boys and girls ages 1-19.
By Lanie Lippincott Peterson
Savannah Morning News
When 5-year old Shea Shurling saw her doctor for a checkup Tuesday,he
didn't just listen to her chest or check her height and weight.
Because the Richmond Hill kindergartner is in remission from leukemia, her oncologist, Dr.Ihsan Al-Khalil, also took a small sample of bone marrow from her hip.
Shea's doctor and parents, Jerry and Steve Shurling, needed to know if her cancer had come back.
And after several anxious hours, the Shurlings got good news: "The biopsy came back fine," Jerry Shurling said, excited that her youngest daughter doesn't have to start another taxing round of chemotherapy.
Shea is one of more than 90 Backus Children's Hospital patients being
treated this year for cancer -- and across the state, more children are hearing news similar to hers.
Increasingly, Georgia's children are surviving cancers like leukemia or lymphomas that only a few years ago would have killed them, according to a state Division of Health Report released this month.
Childhood cancer is now the third most common cause of death among children ages 1-19, with more than 50 children in Georgia dying from cancer this year, epidemiologists from the Georgia Childhood Cancer Report said. And the incidence of childhood cancers in Georgia is increasing -- up 1.4 percent per year since 1975.
But that increase is in large part due to improved diagnostic methods or changes in coding cancer diagnoses, the state epidemiologists said.
Further, "the death rate from childhood cancers in Georgia has decreased about .6 per cent per year since 1979," the report said, adding "the decrease is due to improved treatment."
In addition, "because of advances in treatment, over 75 percent of children with cancer will survive five years or more," the report said.
This study provides the first picture of childhood cancer in the state,according to Dr. Kathleen E. Toomey, director of the Georgia Department of Human Resources, Division of Public Health.
The data is expected to guide statewide and local cancer control efforts for doctors, Georgia Cancer Coalition leaders, public health officials and cancer researchers.
In the treatment of leukemia, for instance, the cure rate for children 10 years ago was only 35 percent to 40 percent, said Shea's doctor, Al-Khalil,who is director of hematology-oncology at Backus Children's Hospital.
But now, if cancer is diagnosed early, the cure rate is 90 percent if it's a girl between age 2 and 10 and, if it's boy, 80 percent.
Though he loses some patients -- notably children with brain tumors -- treatment saves most of them, said Al-Khalil, known to his patients as "Dr.Al."
"Last year, I had 27 new cases of cancer," said Al-Khalil. "I lost two."
Elinor Minshew, director of marketing and communications for the American Cancer Society's southeast division, said while the cause of childhood cancers is still not known, research and treatment of pediatric cancer is
getting better every year, she said.
"It gives them a chance for life," Minshew said. "Treatment is aggressive. But children heal quickly."
The report looked at a variety of pediatric cancers, but unlike adult
cancers -- which can be attributed to tobacco use, diet, obesity or lack of exercise -- the cause of cancer in children is unknown and "there is no known way to prevent it."
Among the study's findings and the state's pediatric cancer registry:
* The rate of pediatric cancer in Georgia is about the same as the rate nationally. (The rate is 154.5 per one million children age 0-19 compared to 145.6 per one million children in the U.S.)
* The rate of pediatric cancer in Chatham County is about the same as the cancer rate for the state. (There are 152.8 cases of children with cancer per one million children, compared to a rate of 154.5 per one million children in Georgia.)
* The rate of pediatric cancer in Bulloch County is also about the same as the rate in Chatham County and the state. (Bulloch County's rate is 256.5 cases of pediatric cancer per one million children compared to the state rate of 154.5. Though that number may initially appear higher, the
differences are not statistically significant because the comparison is based on one million children, said report co-author and state Division of Health epidemiologist Chrissy McNamara.)
Rates for other counties, surrounding Savannah, were not available because the number of cancer cases was too small, McNamara said.
Health reporter Lanie Lippincott Peterson can be reached at
LanieP@savannahnow.com or 652-0332.
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CANCER TITLE CENTER MAY DEPEND ON RESEARCH TIES
* The area's ability to become a cancer center of excellence may hinge on securing ties with a research university.
ALBANY - Southwest Georgia's application to become a cancer center of excellence is lacking one major component - affiliation with a research university.
The Georgia Cancer Coalition, which will select two or three centers of excellence from eight applications next year,requires that they be affiliated with "a strong, research university," said the state coalition's vice president, Nancy Paris. Without that affiliation, the Southwest Georgia Cancer Coalition's chances of earning the designation are in doubt. Cancer centers of excellence will provide research, treatment, prevention and education activities.
Without a university affiliation, the local coalition could secure a designation as a program of excellence, which will focus on just one of those activities, such as education.
If a cancer center of excellence is a seven-course dinner and a program of excellence a single course, Southwest Georgia Cancer Coalition director Ken Beverly said he has no interest in becoming just dessert.
Local coalition members are discussing possible affiliations with Morehouse College and Emory University, said Beverly, CEO of Archbold Memorial Hospital in Thomasville. There are also hopes that the state coalition will accept an affiliation with a research organization, like the Joseph W. Jones Research Center in Baker County, instead of a university.
An affiliation with the Jones Center, which focuses on environmental research, would give the local coalition an edge, Beverly said. It would allow this area to lead the way in research that focuses on how the outside environment affects cancer rates, he said.
The local coalition also is trying to bring 10 eminent scholars to Southwest Georgia to conduct research. "We certainly are going for a program of excellence," Beverly said. Paris said Wednesday that she didn't know enough about the research done at the Jones Center to know whether an affiliation with it could be substituted for an affiliation with a university.
She also said that the local coalition's application has several things working in its favor, including the dire need for cancer programs in Southwest Georgia. The coalition also is well organized and has strong leadership, Paris said.
Applications to become centers of excellence and programs of excellence are due in December. Those applications will be reviewed and sent back for revisions if necessary. Final applications are due in February with the state coalition naming the centers and programs in the spring.
Paris didn't know how many programs of excellence designations will be made.
Cassandra Corcoran can be reached at
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RUSS TOAL AND THE GEORGIA CANCER COALITION WANT TO MAKE THE STATE A LEADER IN CANCER RESEARCH AND TREATMENT
Russ Toal and the Georgia Cancer Coalition want to make the state a leader in cancer research and treatment — and $400 million in tobacco settlement money says they have a fighting chance.
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THE LATEST TOOL IN FIGHTING CANCER - TISSUE BANKS
Southeast Georgia Cancer Alliance announces a $300,000 grant for regional tissue bank.
The idea sounds simple enough.
Buy an industrial freezer. Inside, in sub-zero temperatures, keep thousands of tiny tumor samples -- indefinitely.
Working with a tissue bank like this, medical researchers might find a "smart drug," -- one that targets a particular kind of cancer.
Or by analyzing tumor sample after tumor sample, they could try to learn why so many Southeast Georgia residents are becoming ill with lymphoma.
That's the hope, said Mark G. Hanly, a pathologist with Southeast Georgia Medical Center in Brunswick.On Monday, Hanly announced a $300,000 state grant to the Southeast Georgia Cancer Alliance to establish a network of four tissue banks from Brunswick to Waycross to Savannah.
"There's nothing like this in this area," Hanly said. But banks like these "can provide us with tissue that will allow researchers to identify the cause of tumors," he said.
Dr. William Hoskins, director of Memorial Health's Anderson Cancer Center who led the design of a national gynecology/oncology tissue bank years ago, agreed. He said that the banks can help test a designer drug that fights cancer but that may not have existed when the tumor samples were collected.
The four regional tissue banks are expected to open by next September, Hanly said. They'll be located at four hospitals: Memorial Health and St. Joseph's/Candler in Savannah, Satilla Regional Medical Center in Waycross and Southeast Georgia Medical Center.
They'll be linked by the same software. And their pathologists -- as well as doctors around the region -- are expected to share information about cancer. Technicians will be trained to use the tissue bank, Hanly said, adding "You can't just get someone off the street and say 'You're a tissue banker.'"
Funding for the tissue bank came from the state's tobacco tax money. Recently, tobacco tax money also paid for a tissue bank for the Augusta/Athens Cancer Program.The grant announced Monday is another step in the Southeast Georgia group's effort to build a full-fledged cancer center. In June, the alliance -- a mix of hospitals, doctors, cancer survivors and community health leaders -- received a $250,000 grant to plan for a large research and treatment center. The group is expected to send a report on its progress to the Georgia Cancer Coalition on Sept. 30.
Health reporter Lanie Lippincott Peterson can be reached at 652-0331 or LanieP@savannahnow.com
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IMAGE BOOSTER FOR GRADY
Atlanta Business Chronicle, July 26-August1
Georgia Cancer Coalition President Russ Toal says the coalition's first cancer center of excellence, under construction at Grady Memorial Hospital, will bolster Grady's image and help the embattled hospital tap into a new revenue stream.
Toal, speaking at a recent meeting of the Fulton-DeKalb Hospital Authority board, said plans to open the new center in January are on track. It will be the first of as many as four cancer centers the coalition will help fund.
In addition to inpatient and outpatient cancer care, the center will house 10 laboratories, a pharmacy, a dedicated nursing staff and the latest diagnostic imaging equipment.
"We don't want this to just be an indigent-care center," Toal said. "This center can help Grady change its [patient] mix and improve Grady's image."
Grady has struggled financially, posting an $11 million operating loss so far this year. The state's largest public hospital, Grady cares for the lion's share of metro Atlanta's poorest patients, who often cannot afford to pay for their care.
The coalition, a nonprofit partnership launched last year, is funneling state tobacco lawsuit settlement funds into a broad cancer care network and smoking prevention programs.
The coalition has brought 40 prominent scholars and researchers into the state, helped to start a smoking cessation hot line and will seed fund state-of-the-art cancer care centers around the state.
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CANCER GRANT RECEIVED
BY EMMANUEL C. ALOZIE
Posted on Wed, Jul. 24, 2002
After a year of hard work, the West Central Georgia Coalition has received $223,322 grant to come up with a definitive cancer program in order to earn formal designation as a Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence.
The initial project will cost $695,000. The planning grant from Georgia Cancer Coalition will be used to start cancer-related education, prevention, detection and screening programs for
residents in the Chattahoochee Valley. The program will cater to every cancer patient in the region,but will pay special attention to under-served groups, which include minorities, children and the elderly.
As one of seven groups in the state to receive the grant, the West Central Georgia Coalition -- made up of 17 health, business and church groups -- has six months to put in place an innovative plan and undergo a second competitive process to earn formal designation as a Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence.
The group hopes to raise the balance of funds needed to start the program through local cash and in-kind donations. Russ Toal, president of Georgia Cancer Coalition, said the program brings health and community resources together to offer relief to cancer sufferers in a region.
Gov. Roy Barnes established the coalition as a nonprofit organization to bring cutting-edge cancer treatment to residents of Georgia. Dr. Zsolt Koppanyi, medical director of the West Central Health District, said earning the designation will bring additional resources to the area to treat cancer patients. He said the center's goal is to reduce the number of area residents dying of cancer. Based on the average annual mortality rate for cancer deaths per 100,000 persons, the incidence of cancer deaths in the West Central Health District is 221, compared with the national average of 206. Calling the group's efforts "direct hands-on and labor intensive," Koppanyi said it shows the commitment of health professionals, churches, businesses and private organizations to bring the best cancer treatment to rural communities. He said the key to reducing excess cancer mortality is to detect the disease early, educate patients and follow up with patients to ensure they keep up with treatment. Koppanyi said a coordinator will be hired to recruit patients, work with physicians and keep up with patients.
While the program will address all cancers, special attention will be paid on preventing tobacco use and cessation, said Dr. David McIntosh, associate medical director of the John B. Amos Cancer Center and co-chair of the West Central Georgia Cancer Coalition. Smoking is a leading cause of lung cancer and contributes to other forms of cancers, he said. "It is fitting that we focus on helping people quit smoking and,more important, educating and encouraging people -- especially young people -- not to start smoking," McIntosh said.
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SOUTHWEST GEORGIA LEADS STATE IN CANCER OUTBREAKS
THOMASVILLE — Georgia has cancer incidence rates and mortality rates higher than the national average, especially in the southwest Georgia area.
The incidence of cancer in the Southwest Georgia Cancer Coalition’s 38-county region is roughly 35 percent higher than for the rest of the state. More than 1,500 people from southwest Georgia died of cancer last year, and another 3,500 were diagnosed with the disease.
While it may seem reasonable to credit the higher averages to chemical uses in the rural areas, experts say lung cancer is the leading cancer in this area, not leukemia or lymphoma that can be caused by exposure to hazardous materials.
“I would attribute the higher rate to the larger number of smokers, an older population than in metro areas and socio-economics,” said radiation oncologist Steven Johnson, M.D., of the Lewis Hall Singletary Oncology Center. “We are unable to point to chemical and crop dusting use. It’s way more likely it’s due to cigarette use. We see high numbers of lung, prostate and breast cancer patients.”
In early 2000, Gov. Roy Barnes established the Georgia Rural Development Council (GRDC). Several counties in southwest Georgia are categorized by the GRDC as “declining” rural and most are considered “lagging” rural.
This contrasts counties which are labeled as ”rapidly developing” areas in Georgia. According to the GRDC, the rate of cancer is 35 percent higher in declining and lagging rural counties in the state than in rapidly developing counties.
Additionally, the Georgia Cancer Data Report for 2000 (produced by the Georgia Dept. of Human Resources and the American Cancer Society) lists the southwest Georgia region as having “significantly higher” rates than the rest of the state for the following types of cancer — uterine, cervical, lung and bronchus and prostate. Despite pockets of prosperity, the overall area also receives poor scores for both economic and social conditions, as well as a limited distribution of cancer-related health care “assets”— in other words, the SWGCC region includes 38 counties with 30 hospitals, but only four counties — including Thomas — have hospitals that provide both radiology and oncology services.
According to the National Center for Primary Care at Morehouse School of Medicine, the 38 counties of the SWGCC area include 163,664 uninsured citizens. The Georgia Dept. of Community Health reports 201,965 Medicaid recipients in the area.
Economic indicators include per capita income, unemployment, population growth and percentage of people below the poverty line, among others.
Social indicators include teen pregnancy, food stamp participation, education rates and infant mortality, among others.
“Here, and in Valdosta, Moultrie, Albany and Tifton, we have surgeons and the facilities to treat patients,” said Johnson, who is also a member of the SWGCC. “While 95 percent of patients receive their chemo and radiation locally, five percent travel to Emory for exotic treatments.”
When the Georgia Cancer Coalition was formed, one of its main goals became to provide more Georgians with access to cutting edge cancer research and treatment.
In this effort, the SWGCC has received a $250,000 grant for a 10-month planning period. The grant will be used to design and implement a unique approach to addressing the GCC’s goals. These goals encompass prevention and early detection of cancer, care and treatment, education and clinical research. SWGCC will also address the needs of the underserved, including racial and ethnic minorities, the elderly and children.
“We know that in many cases the incidence of cancer and other chronic and acute diseases is related to lifestyle habits, and we want to pool our regional resources to further education people and work with them to change those habits, reduce the incidence of disease and improve their quality of life,” said Archbold Medical Center President Ken B. Beverly, who chairs the Southwest Georgia Cancer Coalition's steering committee. “The designation we’re seeking as one of the state’s regional cancer centers of excellence will provide resources for additional clinical research on this particular group of diseases right here in southwest Georgia.”
Over the next several months, eight regions will work to establish programs and partnerships that may ultimately lead to a designation as a Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence.
The coalition plans to complete a cancer assets inventory already in progress, formalize working relationships with medical and nursing schools, develop a research agenda and continue building prevention, education and early detection programs throughout the region.
The grant allows SWGCC to develop its plans, priorities, needs and recommendations for the region to make substantial progress in reducing the burden of cancer in southwest Georgia. By the end of the planning period, the SWGCC will submit an application to become a Georgia Cancer Program of Excellence.
“We are joining forces to offer every treatment available to our population,” Johnson said. “We are trying to bring a finer level of sophistication to our area.”
To contact reporter Sandi Olson, call (229) 226-2400, ext. 226.
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GRANT MAY AID CANCER CENTER
The excuses for not getting a mammogram sound familiar to Ethel Barnes - she had used them herself.
She knew she should get one when she turned 40, but "I remember thinking I can wait a little while. Then another birthday came and went."
After becoming sore under her arms after lifting some boxes, she found a lump in her breast that turned out to be a tumor.
Feeling fortunate now that she has completed chemotherapy, Ms. Barnes vows not to let others get away without the annual exam. She will have some help through a state cancer grant and through the Avon Foundation that will enable others to get the exams, particularly in rural counties.
And that, in turn, may some day aid efforts in Augusta and Athens, Ga., to get a nationally recognized cancer center.
Kathy Russell, a consultant for the Georgia Cancer Coalition, met with members of the Augusta/Athens Corridor Cancer Program last week to outline what it would take to apply for designation as a National Cancer Institute Cancer Center. In addition to sufficient financial and administrative support for the center and its director, there would have to be evidence of a robust cancer research program, she said.
At a minimum, the program would mean at least three areas of focused research, with three primary investigators in each area with top-level funded grants, she said.
"What you'd like is a significant depth and breadth" of research, she said. That would mean at least $2 million in grant money from the National Cancer Institute, she said.
The MCG and Athens coalition may fall a little short of that amount now, although there are probably at least three research areas that meet the other minimum standards, said Dr. Stephen Peiper, the chairman of the Department of Pathology at MCG and its interim director of cancer research.
The institute also wants to see collaborations with the community and other research areas, which can be difficult to coordinate, particularly between two academic institutions, Dr. Russell said.
MCG and University of Georgia collaborators recognize that importance, said MCG President Daniel W. Rahn.
"Part of what we want to do is to build this in an integrated way," he said.
The effort scored highest on its application for a regional program of excellence planning grant from the Georgia Cancer Coalition and aims to get a center designation from the state next year. But it is not ready to go for the national designation, Ms. Russell said.
In the meantime, there is an effort to address an important area that the National Cancer Institute will use to grade the regional effort - how well it meshes with the community and addresses unique local cancer needs.
"They want to measure science," Ms. Russell said. "But they want to know the environment in which this science is operating."
The cancer coalition is working with groups such as the East Central Health District to address local cancer problems, in particular breast cancer in rural patients that seem to show up in later stages, Dr. Peiper said. The district has a $234,000 grant to aid women in seven rural counties, including Burke, McDuffie and Lincoln, said Juanita Burney, the grants program manager for the district.
The services will include mammograms and Pap smears and education "on the importance of early detection," Ms. Burney said.
It makes a critical difference in the lives of breast cancer patients, said Pam Anderson, breast health specialist at University Breast Health Center.
"Early-stage breast cancer has a greater survival rate and more treatment options," she said.
Women who might not otherwise be able to get a mammogram have a new program to turn to at University Breast Health Center.
The center and local health departments are joining to provide screening, a free mammogram and education to 500 women, ages 40 and older.
For more information, call (706) 774-4141.
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LATEST RECRUIT BRINGS MOLECULAR RESEARCH TO THE TABLE
New University of Georgia stem cell researcher Stephen Dalton, 41, is one of the newest eminent scholars to be recruited to UGA, where he'll continue his stem-cell research, along with molecular research that has implications for the origin and treatment of cancer. With Athens developing as a center for biotechnology, Australian Stephen Dalton believes he's arrived at the right place at the right time.
''I would not be here if I didn't have absolute confidence in the field,'' Dalton said. ''It really offers great hope for people with incurable diseases. It's just very exciting to be a part of it.''
Dalton, 41, is one of the newest eminent scholars to be recruited to the University of Georgia, where he'll continue his stem-cell research, along with molecular research that has implications for the origin and treatment of cancer.
Biotech investing might be at a low ebb, but recruiting Dalton marks a major investment for both the state and BresaGen, an Australian biotech company that's moved its headquarters to Athens. They pooled resources to set up a $1.5 million endowed professorship for Dalton and fund a team of about nine graduate students and technicians. He starts work in Athens full-time next year.
''The pot of gold is getting the cells in the clinic and really curing Parkinson's disease,'' the slowly progressing neurological disorder, he said. ''The immediate objective is to work to understand stem cells.''
Embryonic stem cells are the precursors to all the 200 or so cell types in the body. Researchers hope to use them to make cells that could be used to treat diabetes, Parkinson's, heart diseases or other disorders.
Dalton, a University of Adelaide scientist, is one of more than 32 researchers who have come to Georgia after being recruited by the Georgia Research Alliance, a public-private consortium of schools, businesses and private industry dedicated to promoting research and economic development.
His new American address should help UGA compete for state and federal cancer research funds, but for him, there were other reasons for relocating.
Like scientists before him, a prime reason was the chance for collaborations with Steven Stice, the UGA animal cloning expert. Stice will be working with Dalton on therapeutic uses of embryonic stem cells. Specifically, Dalton has been using mouse embryos, injected with stem cells, to study early cell development and to investigate the origins of cancer at the molecular level.
''The University of Georgia has been incredibly supportive in recruiting me here -- they really want to make things happen,'' Dalton said. ''There no reason why there can't be a good strong cancer program here.''
The past few weeks, he's been meeting with other cancer researchers, along with graduate students, some of whom will work with him as part of an agreement that sets aside 51 percent of his time for work as a public, tenured professor in animal science.
On the private side of his work with BresaGen, there have been interviews with prospective lab technicians, meetings with the head of the Georgia Cancer Coalition, Russ Toal, and sessions with the university's technology transfer experts. Dalton serves as scientific director of BresaGen's cell therapy program in Adelaide and has an undisclosed stake in any company profits.
Here in Athens, Dalton's group will be working in some 1,300 square feet of lab space, located both in the animal science building and in a new incubator building on College Station Road in which a growing group of BresaGen workers is leasing space from the university system.
''It adds a key technology to what we have in the state -- a real specialist in molecular-level cell development biology, a real big plus to have,'' said Clifton Baile, a distinguished professor of animal science at UGA and a member of BresaGen's scientific advisory board. Baile recruited both Stice and Dalton to Athens.
BresaGen Ltd., listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, was riding high last year when the National Institutes of Health named it one of just four U.S. companies and research institutions that own four of the 64 stem cell lines approved for use by the federal agency. The company hit a snag last week when its British partner stopped clinical trials on its lead anti-leukemia drug when an independent study questioned the drug's cancer-killing effectiveness.
The company is now listed at 58 cents a share, down from $1.40 in Australian dollars last year.
Stem-cell research faces other hurdles down the road, in the form of FDA regulation that bars all 64 existing cell lines from being used in clinical trials and later drug approval because the approved lines were all developed using mouse cells as a platform. But Dalton isn't daunted by the regulatory or scientific challenges ahead.
''It's a tough issue,'' he said. ''That doesn't stop research and development on the existing lines. For us, there's a lot of progress that can be made with existing stem cell lines.''
Chris Juttner, the company's executive director and vice president for clinical affairs, has said the company will give American researchers free access to its stem cells in exchange for right of first refusal to license any commercially promising inventions the researchers may develop.
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TISSUE BANK AND RESEARCH INITIATIVES
The Georgia Cancer Coalition (GCC) has announced two major initiatives to expand Georgia’s research talent, capacity and infrastructure. According to President Russ Toal, "the GCC has approved grants totaling $800,000 for two tumor, serum and tissue banks." The GCC’s research focus is on creating an unparalleled environment for the pursuit of cancer discovery that builds on the capabilities of Georgia’s academic institutions and provides them with enhanced scientific resources. Toal stated, "These banks are essential to stimulating cancer research in Georgia."
The tumor, serum and tissue banks will be located in Augusta and Savannah. Grants will be made to the Medical College of Georgia, a member of the Augusta/Athens Corridor Cancer Program and to Memorial Health University Medical Center, a member of the Southeast Georgia Cancer Alliance. Both programs were recently approved for planning awards to create Regional Programs of Excellence by the GCC. The programs also have Distinguished Cancer Clinicians and Scientists in residence.
Stephen Peiper, M.D. of the Medical College of Georgia and William Hoskins, M.D. of Memorial Health University Medical Center, both GCC Distinguished Cancer Scientists, speak emphatically about the importance of this initiative. According to Dr. Peiper, chairman of the Department of Pathology and Interim Cancer Research Director at MCG, "These banks are a vital investigational resource for Georgia’s growing cancer research community. The creation of a statewide tumor, serum and tissue banking system is unique and strengthens Georgia’s cancer research environment immeasurably." Furthermore, according to Dr. Hoskins, director of the Curtis and Elizabeth Anderson Cancer Institute at Memorial Health University Medical Center, " the availability of such a rich resource will enable Georgia to continue to recruit investigators and clinicians of the highest quality as well as to attract investments from pharmaceutical and biotech companies."
Concurrently, Toal announced the approval of 22 scholars for recruitment as Distinguished Cancer Clinicians and Scientists. This would bring GCC’s total recruits to 44 of the 150 pledged by Governor Roy Barnes. The new class of scholars is being recruited by leading institutions including Emory University (Winship Cancer Institute, Woodruff School of Nursing, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta), Medical College of Georgia, Georgia Institute of Technology, Morehouse School of Medicine, University of Georgia, Mercer University/Memorial Health University Medical Center, Georgia Southern University, and Clayton State College and University. The GCC provides funding ranging from $250,000 to $750,000 over five years to support cancer-related scholarly research.
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FUNDING SUPPORTS PATIENT ARCHIVE
Augusta and Savannah will split $800,000 from the Georgia Cancer Coalition to create what may be the first statewide tumor and tissue bank in the nation, officials said Thursday.
Coalition President Russ Toal announced that Medical College of Georgia would get a grant of $500,000 and Memorial Health University Medical Center would receive $300,000 to fund their proposals to start the banks, which would store samples and data from cancer patients statewide and make them available for researchers. Stephen Peiper, the chairman of the Department of Pathology at MCG and interim director of cancer research, said he is not aware of another in the country and it could prove invaluable.
"We're in the genomic era," Dr. Peiper said. "Now we're able to approach a lot of disease from a genetic point of view. To have an archive of those (genetic) materials over time is a gold mine."
There is an also an effort to establish a statewide clinical trials network office, with its own staff, that would allow any doctor or any patient in the state to participate in cutting-edge research, Mr. Toal said. An announcement about that may come in the next two months, Mr. Toal said. That would also be the first of its kind in the country, he said. Already there is tremendous collaboration between hospital, providers and researchers taking place across the state, he said.
"I think the pieces, perhaps uniquely, are in place in Georgia like nowhere else," Mr. Toal said.
Having the statewide clinical trials office would be important for private physicians, where 96 percent of the cancer care is delivered, Mr. Toal said. Many community physicians are turned off from clinical trials because of the hassle and paperwork, which could be smoothed by the proposed office, said Augusta radiation oncologist Jerry Howington.
"It would benefit all of us seeing patients every day," Dr. Howington said.
The Augusta/Athens Corridor Cancer Program had earlier earned praise from the coalition with its application for a $250,0000 Regional Program of Excellence planning grant, one of eight awarded. The eight recipients across the state must then turn in an application for a new designation by the end of February: continue planning if they are not ready yet; become a Regional Program of Excellence; or become a Regional Program of Excellence with a Georgia Cancer Center of Excellence designation.
What that center will entail - how many new researchers, how much funding - will be decided in part on what the applicant requests, Mr. Toal said. How many there will be is also dependent on the applications and on funding from the tobacco settlement through the Legislature, Mr. Toal said.
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GROUP LOOKS AT REGION'S CANCER NEEDS
Northeast Georgia Health System will receive a $250,000 grant from the Georgia Cancer Coalition to improve cancer screening, education and services in a 16-county area. The health system has teamed up with several other hospitals and organizations to form the Northeast Georgia Cancer Coalition. The recent grant, which had to be matched with at least $250,000 in local funding and in-kind resources, will help the coalition work toward creating a cancer Center of Excellence or Regional Program of Excellence.
The Northeast Georgia coalition is one of eight entities across the state that have been awarded planning grants.
Russ Toal, president of the Georgia Cancer Coalition, said state officials will announce in April 2003 which communities will receive the Center of Excellence designation.
"If you are chosen, it could enable you to recruit and retain additional physicians, and to develop ancillary services for cancer care," he said.
As a Center of Excellence, Northeast Georgia could become a hub for clinical research. Designation as a Regional Program of Excel- lence would link the 16 counties in a network of services.
"The regional planning grants will provide for a continuum of care, from prevention and detection to treatment and palliative care," Toal said.
Nancy Harris, director of oncology services at Northeast Georgia Medical Center, said the grant will allow health officials to conduct a community needs assessment for each of the counties.
"In this region, we have pockets of cancer care but nothing that pulls it all together," she said. "For example, we don't have a planned approach to screenings. Everybody's doing it kind of hit-and-miss."
Progress is already being made on that front, however. In February, the medical center received more than $200,000 from the Georgia Cancer Coalition to conduct screenings for breast and cervical cancer in seven rural counties.
But screenings are the easy part. When a person in an underserved area is actually diagnosed with cancer, things get more complicated.
One of the partners in the Northeast Georgia coalition is Habersham County Medical Center, which does not offer cancer treatment. Gaylon Palmer, vice president of community service for the hospital, said the grant will help set up a resource and referral system for Habersham area residents.
"The purpose of the partnership is to level the playing field," she said. "We want to make sure that people in rural areas are receiving the same care as those who live near a Center of Excellence."
Palmer said when a Habersham patient is diagnosed with cancer, the hospital assigns a nurse to coordinate that person's care. "We try to get them wherever they need to be.
Transportation is a big issue for people in this area."
In the 16-county region, most cancer patients travel to Gainesville for treatment, although a growing number go to the new cancer center in Toccoa.
Charles Nash, medical director of cancer services at Northeast Georgia Medical Center, said the Gainesville hospital offers every form of cancer treatment except bone-marrow transplants.
The hospital also is working toward creating a comprehensive cancer-care center. Nash hopes a Center of Excellence designation will increase the number of clinical trials available to everyone in the region.
"We're already going great guns on cancer research, but we want to do more," he said.
Toal said the coalition has persuaded insurance companies in Georgia to pay for patients enrolled in clinical trials. In the past, some insurers denied coverage because they deemed the treatments experimental.
"We're working to develop a statewide clinical trial network, so you don't have to be affiliated with a medical school to participate," Toal said.
Over the next six months, a local committee led by Nash and Harris will work with a panel of national advisors to devise a plan for Northeast Georgia.
Toal said Gov. Roy Barnes has already named the state's first, and primary, Center of Excellence at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.
"The rest of them will be designated according to National Cancer Institute standards, without regard to politics," he said.
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CANCER COALITION SAVES LIVES
The significance of the planning grant awarded the Southwest Georgia Cancer Coalition last week is far greater than the $250,000 amount reflects.
The announcement by the Georgia Cancer Coalition that gives the green light to proceed with planning means that at least 38 counties in this part of the state will move closer to improving their citizens’ health.
Yes, the statewide initiative of Gov. Roy Barnes is aimed at cancer, but as prevention strategies known to be effective are implemented county by county, citizens will become more health conscious, which will affect other health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart attacks.
The Southwest Georgia Cancer Coalition, which has a 32-member steering committee, is one of eight groups in the state awarded planning funding after submitting written proposals. In December, each group is to submit a first draft of a detailed plan to reduce cancer through prevention, screening, diagnostics, treatment and research.
At stake is millions of dollars in tobacco settlement dollars the governor has committed to developing three or more cancer programs around the state that could make Georgia itself a mega cancer center. This idea has the attention of the National Cancer Institute.
The collaboration already achieved in Southwest Georgia is amazing. Ten counties — stretching from Lowndes and Berrien to Sumter and Crisp — are represented on the temporary steering committee. Members come from the fields of public health, hospital administration, physician, ministerial, nonprofit, education and business. Since the first pre-organizational meeting in December, participants have spent enormous amounts of time in developing a vision for how a largely rural and heavily poor region could halt the stronghold cancer has on its citizens.
This genuine collaboration of such diverse interests around a single health care issue has the potential to strengthen this region like nothing else in our lifetimes.
The net effect can be saved lives, reduced health care costs, cutting edge cancer treatment in the region, creation of jobs and an overall enhanced quality of life for people who make superior lifestyle choices.
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UGA, PROMINA NEARER TO FORMING CANCER CARE CENTER
The University of Georgia and Promina Health System have moved one step closer to forming a state-supported cancer care center.
The Georgia Cancer Coalition, formed in 2000 to help the state become a national hub for cancer treatment and research, has announced eight awards for planning grants for the development of Regional Programs of Excellence.
Part of the Coalition's mission is to create a statewide cancer care network comprised of three to four Cancer Centers for Excellence.
The initiative will cost about $800 million to $1 billion over the next five to seven years. Gov. Roy Barnes has committed between $250,000 and $400,000, to be drawn primarily from state tobacco settlement money, for the program.
Communities and health care organizations competed for the awards. Each regional program will receive a grant of approximately $250,000 and has identified local matching funds and in-kind resources of at least $250,000.
Over the next six months the eight regions will work locally to establish programs and partnerships that could lead to a designation as a Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence. A special emphasis will be placed on developing programs to improve access to cancer care, especially for the poor.
A joint application from the Medical College of Georgia and the University of Georgia received the highest score for its application, which focuses on cutting-edge cancer research.
Other grant award recipients included: Southwest Georgia Cancer Coalition, covering the Albany-Thomasville area; Northwest Crescent Cancer Coalition, covering Marietta and Carrollton; Southeast Georgia Cancer Alliance, covering Savannah; Promina Health System, covering greater Atlanta; West Central Georgia Cancer Coalition, covering Columbus; Northeast Georgia Cancer Coalition, covering Gainesville; and Northwest Georgia Regional Cancer Coalition, covering Rome.
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CANCER COALITION AWARDS PLANNING GRANTS
The Georgia Cancer Coalition (GCC) has awarded eight planning grants totaling $2 million to regional healthcare organizations across the state that have developed innovative programs for detecting and treating cancer.
Each organization recognized under GCC's "Regional Programs of Excellence" will receive $250,000 from GCC and will match that amount with local funds. The organizations will use the money to develop and implement programs that encompass prevention and early detection of cancer, care and treatment, education and clinical research. The grants will also help provide cancer care for racial and ethnic minorities, the elderly and children.
Some of the organizations could be in line for designation later as a Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence, said Russ Toal, GCC president. "There will be another competitive process for those who seek formal designation," Toal said. "We will be working closely in the coming months to
provide support and consultation to the planning awardees, but there is no guarantee that they will receive designation as a Center for Excellence."
The recipients of the GCC grants are the Medical College of
Georgia/University of Georgia in Augusta and Athens; the Southwest Georgia Cancer Coalition in Albany-Thomasville; the Northwest Crescent Cancer Coalition in Marietta-Carrollton; the Southeast Georgia Cancer Alliance in Savannah; Promina Health Systems of Greater Atlanta; the West Central Georgia Cancer Coalition in Columbus; the Northeast Georgia Cancer Coalition in Gainesville and the Northwest Georgia Regional Cancer Coalition in Rome.
© 2002 by Capitolimpact.com.
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SAVANNAH, AUGUSTA EARN $250,000 GRANTS
A Savannah-area coalition of cancer survivors, doctors and hospital officials got good news Tuesday.
Officials from the Georgia Cancer Coalition in Atlanta awarded the group -- formally known as the Southeast Georgia Cancer Alliance -- a $250,000 grant to plan a comprehensive cancer center.
The Savannah coalition was one of eight around the state that received similar grants to start a comprehensive cancer center that would conduct clinical trials and work on cancer prevention.
"I'm pleased," said James F. Rapella, the Savannah-area coalition's facilitator. "We can get going on the cancer center."
The grant allocations were competitive, Rapella said, noting that around the state, six other cancer proposals were not funded.
Over the next few months, the coalition will be trying to win formal designation -- and with that, state tobacco money -- as a Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence.
But the designation is competitive and right now, the Savannah area needs to start doing more clinical research. And St. Joseph's/Candler Hospital System and Memorial Health University Medical Center "gotta stop squabbling," said Georgia Cancer Coalition spokeswoman Jill Hall.
However, Rapella said Hall was mistaken: the two hospital systems were cooperating on cancer and prenatal care -- and were not at odds, he said.
The local cancer coalition includes not only Savannah-area oncologists, St. Joseph's/Candler and Memorial Health but also hospitals and health systems in Brunswick, Waycross and Vidalia.
Meanwhile, Augusta received the highest score among the eight communities awarded planning grants Monday from the Georgia Cancer Coalition.
The $250,000 in matching grants are the first step toward creating a top-tier cancer center in the $1 billion initiative.
The joint application was submitted by the Medical College of Georgia, the University of Georgia, and community physicians in Augusta and Athens to cover the region.
In addition to the Augusta and Savannah-area's coalitions, other groups receiving grant money included: Southwest Georgia Cancer Coalition, covering Albany and Thomasville; Northwest Crescent Cancer Coalition, covering Marietta and Carrollton; Promina Health System, covering the Greater Atlanta area; West Georgia Cancer Coalition in Columbus; Northeast Georgia Cancer Coalition in Gainesville; and Northwest Georgia Regional Cancer Coalition in Rome.
Grady Health System in Atlanta previously has been designated for a cancer center of excellence, seeking to improve treatment and research.
The newly announced grants must be matched by at least $250,000 in local funds and in-kind contributions. The grants are meant to provide funding for six months for each region to formulate a program to meet its needs, particularly those of the underserved, but are no guarantee of receiving a Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence.
In grading those who submitted proposals, the Athens-Augusta submission came out on top for its collaboration and focus on leading-edge research, coalition President Russ Toal said.
"This is the kind of approach that will make it possible for us to fulfill the promise of Governor (Roy) Barnes to Georgians - to reduce the devastating impact of cancer on the state's citizens and communities," Toal said in a statement.
The Augusta proposal was an update of a 30-page plan submitted in October and is the result of months of meetings and discussions.
"We've known we've had a strong collaboration. It's nice to see that confirmed," said MCG President Daniel W. Rahn.
The network is working with consultant Oncology Solutions and expects to have a final recommendation from them in four to six weeks.
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GRANT TO FUND STUDY OF AREA'S CANCER RATE
ALBANY - Southwest Georgians have a 35 percent higher cancer rate, are often diagnosed later and sometimes have less access to treatment than their counterparts in the rest of the state. Together, those factors combine for a deadly toll from the disease here, health officials said. A grant announced this week by Gov. Roy Barnes represents a step toward improving those grim statistics.
The $250,000 planning grant was awarded to the Southwest Georgia Cancer Coalition, a 38-county group that has raised more than $400,000 of matching funds in cash and in-kind contributions from regional health-care providers and businesses.
Following the 10-month study period, the coalition will submit an application seeking designation as a Georgia cancer program of excellence. That recognition would bring more state dollars and "mean we will be able to focus all our efforts over Southwest Georgia on the goals of the Southwest Georgia Cancer Coalition," said Ken B. Beverly, president of Archbold Medical Center in Thomasville and chairman of the coalition steering committee.
The primary goal is to have different groups and health organizations across the region "come up with some type of coordinated battle against what is a terrible disease," Beverly said. "We have some real problems here."
Reasons for the higher incidence of cancer and higher-than-average fatalities include a large number of smokers, overweight people and poor people, Beverly said.
"One of the things it would be nice to do, and we would be able to do with increased resources, is to do research" on why cancer rates are higher in the area, said Paul Newell, Southwest Georgia District health director.
Last year, 1,500 Southwest Georgians died from cancer, and another 3,500 were diagnosed with the disease.
The planning grant will allow the local coalition to perform an inventory of assets, formalize working relationships with medical and nursing schools, develop a research agenda and enhance prevention, education and early detection programs.
"Now that we have the planning grant, one of our first priorities will be to try to engage other leaders and volunteers throughout the Southwest Georgia region," Beverly said. Since the governor announced the state coalition's work about two years ago, groups from across the state have organized to earn the program of excellence designation.
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AUGUSTA EARNS $250,000 GRANT FOR FIRST STEP TOWARD CANCER CENTER
Augusta received the highest score among eight communities awarded planning grants Monday from the Georgia Cancer Coalition, officials said.
The $250,000 in matching grants are the first step toward creating a top-tier cancer center in the $1 billion initiative.
The joint application was submitted by the Medical College of Georgia, the University of Georgia, and community physicians in Augusta and Athens to cover the region.
Also receiving Regional Programs of Excellence grants were: Southeast Georgia Cancer Coalition in Savannah; Southwest Georgia Cancer Coalition, covering Albany and Thomasville; Northwest Crescent Cancer Coalition, covering Marietta and Carrollton; Promina Health System, covering the Greater Atlanta area; West Georgia Cancer Coalition in Columbus; Northeast Georgia Cancer Coalition in Gainesville; and Northwest Georgia Regional Cancer Coalition in Rome.
Grady Health System in Atlanta previously has been designated for a cancer center of excellence, seeking to improve treatment and research.
The newly announced grants must be matched by at least $250,000 in local funds and in-kind contributions. The grants are meant to provide funding for six months for each region to formulate a program to meet its needs, particularly those of the underserved, but are no guarantee of receiving a Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence.
In grading those who submitted proposals, the Athens-Augusta submission came out on top for its collaboration and focus on leading-edge research, coalition President Russ Toal said.
"This is the kind of approach that will make it possible for us to fulfill the promise of Governor (Roy) Barnes to Georgians - to reduce the devastating impact of cancer on the state's citizens and communities," Mr. Toal said in a statement.
The Augusta proposal was an update of a 30-page plan submitted in October and is the result of months of meetings and discussions.
"We've known we've had a strong collaboration. It's nice to see that confirmed," said MCG President Daniel W. Rahn.
The network is working with consultant Oncology Solutions and expects to have a final recommendation from them in four to six weeks, Dr. Rahn said.
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INSURERS AGREE TO COVER CANCER CLINICAL TRIALS
Nine of the major health insurers in Georgia have agreed to start covering the routine costs of medical care for persons who participate in cancer clinical trials.
Gov. Roy Barnes and Russ Toal, director of the Georgia Cancer Coalition, announced the agreement Tuesday as a major step forward in the state's efforts to detect cancer early and treat persons suffering from the disease.
"It means that whether someone is from South Georgia or Atlanta, the mountains or the coast, they will have the same access to the latest treatment," Barnes said at a capitol news conference. "Because their Insurance company will now cover the cost, they can afford to participate (in clinical trials)."
The insurers signing on to the agreement include Kaiser, BlueCross/BlueShield of Georgia, United Health Care, Aetna, Humana, Coventry, OneHealth, Cigna and the Georgia Department of Community Health, which administers Medicaid, PeachCare and the State Health Benefit Plan. Clinical trials are used to develop and test new treatments for cancer and help medical researchers discover new drugs that can treat the disease more effectively.
"Clinical trials increase the chances of a cure for patients," said Dr. Ned Waller, an oncologist at Emory University Hospital. "This step today reduces one of the barriers for participation in clinical trials." The insurers have also agreed that their health benefit policies will provide coverage for cancer screens and examinations in accordance with guidelines established by the American Cancer Society, the National Institute of Health, the National Cancer Institute or the U.S. Public Health Service.
This will benefit both patients and insurers because when cancer is detected early, insurers often won't have to pay for extended, high-cost cancer treatments, Barnes said.
© 2002 by Capitolimpact.com.
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INSURERS TO COVER CANCER STUDIES MORE GEORGIANS COULD JOIN TRIALS
BYLINE: DAVID WAHLBERG, STAFF
PUBLICATION: The Atlanta Journal and Constitution
Georgia cancer patients in clinical trials of new and experimental treatments won't have to pay for doctor visits, blood tests and other medical costs, under an agreement announced Tuesday by the state's major health insurance companies.
Eight private health plans and three state-run plans will cover the routine costs of clinical trials, which some insurers previously didn't pick up because the studies are experimental.
Georgia joins a growing list of states supporting cancer clinical trials. Fifteen states have passed bills requiring coverage, and two others, New Jersey and Michigan, have adopted voluntary agreements similar to Georgia's. Medicare, the federal program for seniors, started covering cancer study expenses in 2000.
"It means that whether someone is from South Georgia or Atlanta, the mountains or the coast, they will have the same access to the latest treatment," said Gov. Roy Barnes.
Kirk McGhee, executive director of the Georgia Association of Health Plans, said he couldn't predict how much the agreement will cost insurers.
The agreement, orchestrated by Russ Toal, president of the Georgia Cancer Coalition, is designed to encourage more cancer patients to enroll in trials, which researchers say are the best way to get promising therapies quickly approved. More than 20 percent of adult cancer patients in the United States qualify for studies, but only about 3 percent participate, according to the American Cancer Society.
In Georgia, that means fewer than 1,000 of the 32,900 patients expected to be diagnosed with cancer this year will take part in studies, while nearly 6,600 could. Close to 14,000 Georgians will die this year from cancer.
The insurers in the agreement --- which cover 3.4 million Georgians, about 41 percent of the state's population --- are Aetna, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Georgia, Cigna, Coventry, Humana, Kaiser, OneHealth and United Health Care, plus the Georgia Department of Community Health, which runs the State Health Benefit Plan, Medicaid and PeachCare. Self-insured employers and smaller private plans may or may not cover cancer clinical trials.
The insurers also agreed to cover all cancer screening tests recommended by major medical groups. Those are already required by state law, but the agreement will also apply to future screening tests.
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CANCER-FREE A THIRD TIME, HAMILTON JORDAN OFFERS HOPE AND ADVICE
The Savannah Morning News - Tuesday, March 12, 2002
There's no such thing as a bad day for Hamilton Jordan.
The former chief of staff for President Jimmy Carter survived three bouts of cancer before he turned 50, he told the Rotary Club of Savannah.
"Life never seems more valuable than when you're fighting for it," said Jordan, now in good health.
On Monday, he recounted his experiences, sometimes poking fun at himself and sometimes offering serious advice.
He also offered Savannah political advice on landing a regional cancer center from the Georgia Cancer Coalition, an initiative in which Jordan has played a behind-the-scenes but important role.
Jordan learned he had lung cancer in 1985. Just after he was diagnosed, a Savannah friend, Dr. Albert Wall, flew to his side at Emory Hospital and told him to be a take-charge patient, Jordan said.
That pep talk led to his treatment at the National Cancer Institute outside Washington, D.C., which he credits with saving his life.
Wall, who was in the audience for the talk, recalled the bedside visit.
"I said 'Hamilton, you have one shot at this thing. Take charge and find the best treatment you can.' "
Sometimes, it's important just to feel you're helping your own cause, Jordan said.
After his 1995 diagnosis of prostate cancer, Jordan read that green tea retarded the spread of the disease. There was just one problem.
"I was disappointed to find the study was done on mice," he said.
Jordan figured he'd have to drink 10 gallons of tea to equal the dose given to the mice. He managed to gulp down 10 cups a day for the month or so he awaited surgery.
"I felt like I was doing something to control my cancer," he said.
Later, after successful surgery, he was able to laugh at an oversight in his self-therapy.
"It was the wrong kind of green tea," he said.
Jordan chronicled this tale and others in his bestselling book, "No Such Thing as a Bad Day."
He is married to a pediatric oncology nurse. Together they helped start Camp Sunshine for kids with cancer. More recently Jordan was part of a group that asked Gov. Roy Barnes to allocate $10 million for cancer screenings of high-risk Georgia populations. To the group's delight, Barnes went further, creating an ambitious plan that expects to spend about $500 million of tobacco settlement money on cancer research, screening and treatment.
The Georgia Cancer Coalition gives the state a chance to be "not a laggard but a leader" in cancer care, Jordan said.
He has no formal role in the coalition but had advice for area leaders trying to convince the coalition to invest in Savannah's cancer services.
To be picked to develop a "Center of Excellence," Savannah has to demonstrate what it can contribute to that effort.
"It's not a matter of what programs you can do in Savannah," he said. "It's what Savannah and this area can do uniquely well."
Health reporter Mary Landers can be reached at 652-0337 or landers @ savannahnow.com
About The Georgia Cancer Coalition
WHAT IS IT? The Georgia Cancer Coalition is a non-profit Georgia corporation whose mission is to make Georgia a national leader in cancer treatment and research.
The state of Georgia expects to kick in between $300 million and $400 million over the next 5-to-7 years for the Georgia Cancer Coalition. The money is coming mainly from the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement between the tobacco industry and the 50 states. The Governor has issued a challenge to leverage this amount three-fold, resulting in a total investment of $1 billion.
What are the centers of excellence and where will they be?
The Georgia Cancer Coalition envisions a network of care, including several centers where clinical, research and educational activities would be linked. One center -- an Emory project at Grady Memorial Hospital -- has been named. Savannah is vying for one of the remaining spots and the money that will come with it.
This story is continued at the following URL:: http://www.savannahnow.com/stories/031202/LOChamjordan.shtml
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CITY WOMAN JOINS CANCER COALITION
The Albany Herald, February 20,2002
ALBANY — An Albany woman who served in the Carter administration is one of 15 people who will help select locations for the state's Cancer Centers of Excellence.
Henrietta Singletary, the only Southwest Georgian on the Georgia Cancer Coalition board of directors, served as deputy to the assistant secretary of agriculture for rural development under President Jimmy Carter and is chair of the Phoebe Foundation.
"I am honored to be named to the board. I look forward to beginning this important work," Singletary said. "The governor's vision for prevention, early diagnosis, treatment and research needs to become a reality for every Georgian."
The board will help decide where to locate the Cancer Centers of Excellence and how many there will be. The centers will implement cancer prevention and treatment programs while conducting research in hopes of cutting the number of cancer cases in Georgia.
This year, it's estimated that 13,700 Georgians will die from cancer, and nearly 33,000 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed, according to the Georgia Cancer Coalition.
Members will also help with fund-raising and building alliances between health care providers and the business community.
Most of the 15 board members named Monday are from the Atlanta area. Other areas of the state represented on the board are Augusta, Columbus, Macon, Rome and Savannah.
Competition is fierce among health care coalitions vying to be named a Center of Excellence. Several hospitals, health care providers and community members throughout this region have banded together in an effort to have one of the centers in Southwest Georgia. The area's main competitor is said to be health care providers in Savannah.
The fact that two people from Savannah are on the board, compared with Southwest Georgia's one, doesn't bother Archbold Memorial Hospital CEO Ken Beverly in Thomasville. Beverly is chair of the committee working to get a center placed here.
"I feel pretty good about the composition of the board; it represents the whole state," he said. "I think we have a better chance with Henrietta Singletary on board."
K. Terry Dornbush of Atlanta, a former U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands, is the board's chairman. Others named to the board: Dr. Louis H. Anderson, Decatur; Harold Dawson, Atlanta; Venus Gines, Marietta; Robert Hatcher, Macon; Doug Hertz, Smyrna; Robert S. Jepson Jr., Savannah; Monica Kaufman, Atlanta; Frank Lawrence, Augusta; Leo Mullin, Atlanta; Harris Odell Jr., Savannah; William C. Turner, Columbus; Molly Yancey, Rome; and C. Michael Cassidy, Atlanta.
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STATE CANCER COALITION BOARD NAMED
The Savannah Morning News, Tuesday, February 19, 2002
ATLANTA -- A former U.S. ambassador to The Netherlands and cancer survivor will head the board in charge of Georgia's effort to become a national leader in the research, prevention and treatment of cancer.
"I've been motivated, both personally and in general, to do everything I can to fight this deadly disease," said Terry Dornbush of Atlanta, chairman of the long-awaited Georgia Cancer Coalition board.
Gov. Roy Barnes created the coalition as a public-private partnership nearly 15 months ago and made it one of his top priorities. Almost 14,000 Georgians die of cancer each year, and the state has among the nation's highest incidences of some forms of cancer.
Last spring, the governor tapped Russ Toal, then commissioner of the Department of Community Health, to take over the day-to-day administration of the coalition as its president.
But until Monday, the partnership lacked a board of directors to set policy and steer the extensive private fund-raising efforts that must be undertaken if the $1 billion initiative is to be successful.
Like Dornbush, many of the board's 14 members either have experienced cancer themselves or have relatives who have had the disease, Toal said during a news conference announcing the appointments.
"I felt it was very important to have someone in the leadership of this board who knows in a very real way what cancer can do to families," he said.
Two of the board appointees are from Chatham County: Chatham County Commissioner Harris Odell Jr. and businessman and philanthropist Robert Jepson.
Savannah is in the running to be named one of the Cancer Coalition's centers of excellence, a designation that could be worth millions for improving cancer prevention, detection and treatment in the area.
"Having people from Savannah (on the board) means having people who understand our needs, doesn't it?" Odell said.
Odell has a master's in public health and worked at Memorial Medical Center, where he was the director of human resources and support services.
He is on the board of the Chatham County Hospital Authority. The authority owns most of the campus of Memorial Health University Medical Center and leases it to the not-for-profit corporation.
"I think it's an amazing appointment," Odell said. "We're going to have half a billion to work with. That's staggering. We can do some good."
Jepson couldn't be reached for comment Monday.
For the past year, the coalition has been operating under the guidance of the Georgia Research Alliance, a private, non-profit corporation working to promote research opportunities that will generate economic growth for the state.
With the alliance's help, the coalition has designated the first of what will be at least three cancer centers of excellence. Toal said the center, which is under construction at Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital, is on time and on budget.
The coalition also has recruited to Georgia the first 22 of 150
clinicians and researchers who will be working on various projects related to the initiative. Those researchers are scattered across several locations, including Atlanta, Augusta, Savannah and Athens. In addition to Savannah, Augusta also is vying for a future cancer center.
On Monday, Dornbush said setting up an application process for those two cities and others interested in becoming cancer centers will be one of the board's first priorities. The board is expected to hold its first meeting in April.
Barnes earmarked $23.6 million in the mid-year budget now before the state Senate for the cancer coalition, not including $10 million in bonds that would go toward a $33 million cancer and biotechnology research building at the Medical College of Georgia.
Another $21.8 million is in the governor's budget proposal for the fiscal year that starts in July. All of the money, except the bond funds, would come from Georgia's share of the national tobacco settlement.
Toal said that if lawmakers approve the funding, the coalition hopes to be in a position to designate the other cancer centers by late June 2003, the end of the next fiscal year.
Health reporter Mary Landers contributed to this report.
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GEORGIA CANCER COALITION BOARD OF DIRECTORS FORMED
ATLANTA, GA -- The Georgia Cancer Coalition today announced its incorporation as a private, nonprofit organization and the formulation of its first Board of Directors. The Coalition is a public/private partnership that will develop a world-class, comprehensive cancer research, prevention and treatment program for the benefit of all Georgians. Governor Roy Barnes launched GCC just over a year ago, earmarking some $300 million in Georgia tobacco settlement receipts to fund GCC’s programs, with an additional $600 million to be raised from public and private sources.
"The Georgia Cancer Coalition will give us a chance to save lives by reducing cancer deaths. Though it is an immense undertaking, I am confident that this board will provide the leadership needed to make this vision a reality," Governor Barnes said.
During its first year, the Coalition has operated under the guidance of the Board of Trustees of the Georgia Research Alliance, a private, nonprofit corporation that brings business, research universities and government together to generate economic gains for the state. "We’ve been pleased to see how well GRA’s public/private partnership model is working for the Coalition," said Alfred W. (Bill) Jones, Vice Chairman of the Alliance Board and head of its GCC steering committee. "GRA will continue its close relationship as this very important initiative moves forward and will be a major collaborator in its research and commercialization programs." Jones is President and CEO of the Sea Island Company, Sea Island, GA.
Georgia Cancer Coalition President Russell Toal said that he is eager to begin working with the new Board. "GCC is off to a strong start," Toal said. "The development of our strategic plan and the guidance of GRA have been important first steps. The commitment of our new board and the ongoing support of the Governor and the Georgia Legislature predict achievement of our aggressive goals for all the citizens of the state."
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CANCER GROUP TO NAME ITS NEW BOARD
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Monday, February 18, 2002
Gov. Roy Barnes' efforts to make Georgia a national center for cancer research and prevention will take a step forward today.
The Georgia Cancer Coalition, now incorporated as its own nonprofit organization, is expected to announce its board of directors at a news conference today at Georgia Public Broadcasting's headquarters.
The chairman of the board will be K. Terry Dornbush, a former U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands. Dornbush, a two-time cancer survivor, is a businessman who has family investments.
Barnes has said he wants to see $1 billion invested in the Georgia Cancer Coalition, and he has pledged state spending of $400 million on the initiative over a period of five years. The remaining $600 million would be raised through public grants and private fund- raising and investments. If the governor's budget recommendations are approved, the state will have invested $150 million of its tobacco settlement funds over a two-year period.
The other members of the board are:
Louis H. Anderson Jr., medical director of the Palmetto Health Council and on the staff of Crawford Long Hospital; Harold A. Dawson Sr., CEO of the real estate firm Harold A. Dawson Co.; Venus Gines, director of Dia de la Mujer Latina health and wellness program; Robert Hatcher, Georgia president of BB&T in Macon and 2002 chairman of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce; Douglas J. Hertz, CEO of United Distributors and founder of Camp Twin Lakes, a camp for chronically ill children; Robert S. Jepson Jr., CEO of Jepson and Associates in Savannah; Monica Kaufman, news anchor for WSB-TV; Frank Lawrence, owner of Bobby Jones Ford Inc. in Augusta; Leo F. Mullin, CEO of Delta Air Lines; Harris Odell Jr., a lawyer in Savannah who served as director of human resources for the Memorial Medical Center; Henrietta M. Singletary, chairwoman of the Phoebe Foundation of Albany; William C. Turner, chairman of the executive committee of the Synovus Financial Corp. and treasurer of the Bradley-Turner Foundation; Molly M. Yancey, a volunteer in the Rome-Floyd County community who has worked with the American Cancer Society; and Michael C. Cassidy, an ex-officio member as president of the Georgia Research Alliance.
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NEW GROUP AT EMORY'S ROLLINS SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH RECEIVES $15 MILLION TO FIGHT TOBACCO USE
EMORY Health Sciences News
Three leading national health organizations have committed $15 million to establish the Tobacco Technical Assistance Consortium (TTAC) in the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. The Consortium will help states and communities develop and run effective programs to prevent and reduce tobacco use in the ongoing battle against smoking-related disease and death. Funding will come from the American Cancer Society, the American Legacy Foundation, and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
"We feel honored to be chosen for this pivotal role in the fight against the nation's leading preventable cause of death," said James W. Curran, M.D., M.P.H., dean of the Rollins School of Public Health. "Diseases caused by tobacco use kill about 400,000 Americans a year."
Dearell Niemeyer, M.P.H., executive director of TTAC, said that the new consortium is designed to train persons who are responsible for tobacco control programs at the state and local level.
"We have a rapidly growing need for increased technical capacity in the tobacco use prevention and control field," he said. "As a result of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement between the states and the tobacco industry, there is an infusion of funding. Now we need to make sure that we have the people, the tools, and the skills in place to use these new resources effectively. The consortium can help."
The majority of TTAC's funding will be used to provide hands-on services to assist communities in reaching their goals for reducing the harm that tobacco use causes to their citizens.
"The Consortium will work with national, state and local partners to improve methods for delivering quality technical assistance," said Kathy Miner, Ph.D., associate dean for applied public health and principal investigator. "Ultimately, in our communities this can translate into changing how tobacco is promoted, marketed, sold, and used."
The consortium will gather and/or develop the necessary resources to fill existing gaps in training at state and local levels. Plans for the Consortium include training programs and consultations, along with an electronic library of resources, to help health professionals and other community leaders strengthen their skills in:
drafting effective tobacco - control laws and regulations;
using broadcast media to deliver effective messages;
developing culturally appropriate programs;
conducting meaningful smoking - cessation projects; and
building community coalitions.
"Georgia is an excellent example of how many of the states are using the Master Settlement Agreement funds to improve the health status of their citizens," Curran said. "Georgia has committed $15.8 million this year specifically to reduce tobacco use. In addition, Governor Roy Barnes has led the state through an extensive planning process to produce Georgia's first comprehensive plan to reduce all cancers. The implementation of the Georgia Cancer Coalition will establish Georgia as a national leader in the research, treatment, and prevention of cancer. The Rollins School of Public Health in partnership with The Winship Cancer Institute at Emory intends to be a valued resource in helping the state to achieve this goal."
"The best opportunity we have in Georgia to reduce cancer-related deaths is by decreasing tobacco use. The Georgia Cancer Coalition is committed to this effort and proud to have the leadership of TTAC in the state," said Russ Toal, president of the Georgia Cancer Coalition.
"A recent public health report shows that many states are failing miserably by not using funds from the $206 billion Master Settlement Agreement for tobacco prevention and treatment programs that save lives," said Steven A. Schroeder, M.D., president and CEO of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "The Consortium will work with the national and community partners and existing tobacco control programs to ensure that states put the right programs in place."
Michael M.E. Johns, M.D., executive vice president for health affairs at Emory University and CEO of Emory Healthcare, noted that tobacco use causes many types of cancer other than lung cancer.
"As a head and neck cancer surgeon, I am painfully aware that tobacco contributes to cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, and larynx, as well as the esophagus and bladder," he said. "Tobacco use is also linked to heart disease and chronic lung disease. If this new consortium is able in any way to reduce smoking and other tobacco use, especially by children and teens, it will make an important contribution to the fundamental mission of Emory Healthcare, which is, quite simply, to make people healthy."
Ron Todd, national director of tobacco control for the American Cancer Society, said "the goals of the TTAC and its programs nicely complement the American Cancer Society's central mission of eliminating cancer as a major health problem. The consortium will be a benefit to all states wanting to develop comprehensive tobacco control programs, not just those that have received tobacco settlement funds."
Dr. Cheryl Healton, president and CEO of the American Legacy Foundation, added, "Legacy is excited about supporting the TTAC, because helping states to develop effective anti-tobacco programs is one of our key missions. Many states and communities are gearing up their efforts for the first time, and the TTAC will provide the expertise they need to develop successful programs and save lives."
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GRANTS AWARDED TO INCREASE CANCER PREVENTION IN RURAL GEORGIA
Governor Roy Barnes announced today that fourteen public health agencies and hospitals serving 64 rural counties will receive grants to increase cancer prevention and screening capacity in rural parts of the state.
"We can now provide critical testing and information to more women about breast and cervical cancer. This will make it possible to detect existing cancers earlier, one of the top goals of the Georgia Cancer Coalition," said Governor Roy E. Barnes at a meeting of the Georgia Breast Cancer Coalition.
The funds will be provided by the Georgia Cancer Coalition (GCC) in conjunction with the Department of Community Health (DCH) and Division of Public Health of the Department of Human Resources (DHR). In addition all grantees were required to post a local match.
Five public health districts and a private, not-for-profit health system will receive awards to develop cancer education programs and increase breast and cervical cancer screening in 35 Georgia rural counties that currently lack those services. Five rural hospitals will receive funds to purchase mammography equipment that will serve 21 counties. Three hospitals will be funded to extend screening services to an additional 18 counties.
Funding for this $3.4 million initiative will come from the DHR Division of Public Health ($906,250) the Indigent Care Trust Fund of DCH ($791,250) and local grantees ($1.7 million). "These grants demonstrate our commitment to capacity building in rural Georgia," Russ Toal, GCC Executive Director. "They also illustrate our commitment to leveraging state dollars for maximum impact."
The Georgia Cancer Coalition was created by Gov. Roy Barnes to make Georgia a national leader in the fight against cancer by accelerating research, prevention, early detection and treatment. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the state, accounting for one in four deaths each year. If current trends continue, one in two Georgia men and one in three Georgia women will develop cancer in their lifetime.
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STATE AD CAMPAIGN WILL RAISE CANCER AWARENESS
The Georgia Department of Human Services will award a $1.5 million contract for the development of a new statewide cancer awareness and education campaign. The department has opened a bid for the contract, which will be funded by the Georgia Cancer Coalition with tobacco lawsuit settlement money, and is seeking a communications firm. The coalition, a public-private partnership formed last year by Gov. Roy Barnes, will use as much as $400 million of the state's tobacco settlement funds to create a statewide system aimed at reducing cancer deaths. "Goal one for the Georgia Cancer Coalition is to prevent and detect cancer," said Lisa Moery, public relations and information coordinator for the department's Division of Public Health, cancer control section. "The DHS is trying to increase public awareness that early detection saves lives and the cancer coalition will make this awareness campaign possible," Moery said. One out of every two men and one out of every three women are at risk of having cancer in their lifetime, and that will be a central message of the campaign, she added. The department also hopes to better educate the public on cancer prevention practices and demonstrate that individuals can play a role in preventing certain cancers from occurring. Contract proposals are due by mid-March and the contract is scheduled to be awarded in April.
Georgia's Medicaid program will need more than $235 million in state funds to cover claims next year, according to the latest budget recomendations for the Department of Community Health.
The department faced a more than $85 million funding shortfall this year, but was given a $235 million appropriation from Gov. Roy Barnes recently to cover 2002 claims. The program provides health care to about 1.2 million poor and disabled Georgians. Last year, Barnes, for the first time, stripped the program of its cash reserves. Now the Department of Community Health, which administers the Medicaid program, only has the money on hand it thinks it will need to pay claims in a given year, said department spokesperson Martin Smith. The reserves previously were used to pay for claims submitted in one fiscal year for services rendered in the previous fiscal year, Smith said. That allowed the department to avoid dipping into a current year's funds to cover last year's Medicaid services, he said. Now, operating without reserves, the department estimates it will need more than $5 million in state and federal funds to cover claims in 2003.
The department also is planning to draw down more than $62 million in federal dollars using a loophole in federal law known as the upper payment limit regulation. Georgia's proposal to draw down millions in matching federal funds in 2002 was approved, but the federal government has since tightened the loophole. At a recent budget hearing, Department of Community Health Commissioner Gary Redding said he is confident the federal money will be there for 2003.
Cleft Palate Program
Northside Hospital has joined forces with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite to help children born with a cleft lip/palate receive better care faster. One of the first things the program does is make sure all babies born with this condition are referred automatically to the Craniofacial Center at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, located across the street from Northside, said Phyllis Hlavac, a perinatal clinical nurse specialist at Northside. Worried parents want action fast when it comes to taking care of their newborns and the program is designed to get the referral process started faster and also to teach nurses and doctors how to handle these cases, Hlavac said.
Many nurses and pediatricians may only see a few cleft palates in their career, but Northside, which delivered some 16,000 babies last year, sees about two a month, she said. Booklets on cleft palate also are available to parents and the program also helps intervene to help newborns born with this condition retrain their mouths and sucking reflexes so that they not only can get proper nourishment, but also avoid speech impediments later in life, Hlavac said. The program, which kicked off in November, already has helped a half dozen young patients.
New CEO Atlanta-based Kinetic Biosystems Inc. has hired a new CEO and president. R. Anthony Laughrey, former CEO and president of Massachusetts-based Admetric BioChem Inc., will serve as leader of both Kinetic Biosystems and KBI BioPharma Inc. Kinetic Biosystems produces enzymes designed to remove nuclear waste, nitrates and other contaminants from ground water.
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GOVERNOR BARNES ANNOUNCES TOUR DE GEORGIA AS MAJOR TOURISM INITIATIVE
Weeklong cycling stage race and rolling festival estimated to generate $30 million in economic impact for Georgia over five years, while raising awareness for The Georgia Cancer Coalition
ATLANTA - (January 25, 2002) - Gov. Roy E. Barnes today announced the creation of Tour de Georgia, a new weeklong, world-class, professional cycling stage race and rolling festival across Georgia that will be held each spring.
The inaugural event is scheduled for April 22-27, 2003. Tour de Georgia, which is owned and operated by a non-profit foundation, The Georgia Partnership for Economic Development (GPED), will be a yearly Pro Cycling Tour stop and one of five World Tour events in the U.S. Gov. Barnes made the announcement at the 2002 Governor's Conference on Tourism.
"Tour de Georgia will be one of the most exciting and unique annual sporting contests in Georgia history, providing a rolling festival with local city celebrations for Georgians and tourists alike," said Gov. Barnes. "Not only does the event promise to have a tremendous economic impact across a large portion of Georgia, it will benefit a very special cause, The Georgia Cancer Coalition."
Estimated to generate $30 million in economic development for Georgia over five years, Tour de Georgia will showcase the state to an estimated 1 million spectators and 50 million television viewers. Proceeds from Tour de Georgia will benefit The Georgia Cancer Coalition as well as create added awareness for Georgia's role in the fight against Cancer.
The Georgia Cancer Coalition is a public-private partnership focused on building a coordinated statewide network of cancer care to be delivered through public and private hospitals, private physicians and other health care providers. Its mission is to make Georgia a national leader in cancer treatment and research by accelerating research, prevention, early detection and treatment.
The race route for Tour de Georgia will change from year to year, but will always traverse a large portion of Georgia.
The Georgia Department of Industry, Trade & Tourism is the state's sales and marketing arm, the lead agency for attracting new business investment, encouraging the expansion of existing industry, locating new markets for Georgia products, attracting tourists to Georgia, promoting the state as a location for film and video projects, as well as planning and mobilizing state resources for economic development. For more information, visit www.georgia.org.
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SETTING GOALS FOR WELLNESS: TOBACCO MONEY HELPS FUND GROUNDBREAKING GEORGIA INITIATIVE TO DIAGNOSE AND TREAT CANCER IN WOMEN
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Tuesday, January 29, 2002
Tobacco money helps fund groundbreaking Georgia initiative to diagnose and treat cancer in women
Patricia Guthrie ö Staff
Barbara Crane used to deliver a one-two-three punch of bad news to women cancer patients at Clayton County's public health clinic.
One: You have cancer.
Two: I know you have no health insurance.
Three: Maybe I can find you reduced cost treatment. Or maybe I can't.
Now, the diagnosis lands a little softer with the advent of a new government program --- partly funded by money from the tobacco industry settlement --- that provides state-paid treatment for women who are diagnosed with breast and cervical cancer and who are uninsured or not adequately covered.
Called the Women's Health Medicaid Program, it enhances a decade-old program called BreasTEST & More, which provides breast exams, mammograms and Pap tests --- free or at a reduced rate. BreasTEST is a federal initiative launched with the Breast and Cervical Cancer Mortality Prevention Act of 1990, which was passed by Congress to reduce cancer deaths among women.
Overseen by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the program has screened about 2 million women nationally for breast and cervical cancer. It's credited with contributing to a 20 percent increase in mammography use among women 50 and older.
But money for the next step after diagnosis --- treatment --- was always missing. That changed two years ago when Congress added $900 million over 10 years toward cervical and breast cancer treatment services for underserved women. The money is funneled through state programs.
"After the diagnosis, we were kind of at a loss as to what to do," recalled Crane, coordinator for the Clayton County Board of Health. "We had to rely on other programs but it all depended on the outcome of the patient --- what their chances of life expectancy were and what funding was available. We had to work around the system to get services. "Now, this new program has removed another barrier. It's simplified the process and it's guaranteed there's a solution."
Georgia's program also is funded with its share of a national settlement with tobacco companies, negotiated by individual state attorneys general. State officials say Georgia is one of the first states to use the tobacco funds to initiate a women's cancer treatment program. Without the new safety net, Cathy Collins of Snellville doesn't know where she would have turned.
Early last year, Collins signed up for a mammogram at Eastside Medical Center after noticing a suspicious lump on her breast. The screening was arranged at a reduced rate through the Gwinnett County health department. She received two doses of bad news.
"I didn't know what the worst part was, knowing I had cancer [or] knowing I didn't have health insurance. It was unbelievable," says 38-year-old Collins, who is employed by a small mortgage company that didn't offer health insurance benefits at the time.
But then Collins learned she was eligible for the Women's Health Medicaid Program. She underwent 16 rounds of chemotherapy, then radiation at the Gwinnett Radiology Group.
"Without the clinic and the program I don't know what I would have done," said Collins, who is divorced with three children, ages 9 to 17. "I've never even seen a bill."
In Georgia, about 130 women will lose their lives this year to cervical cancer and 1,000 will die of breast cancer. But both diseases are treatable when diagnosed early, before the cancer has spread to other areas of the body.
"No woman should die of cervical cancer in this day and age," said Dr. Jonathan Simons, director of the Emory University Winship Cancer Institute. "If they do, it's a failure of the health care system." Reducing by about one-third the number of deaths due to breast and cervical cancers of low-income women is the goal of the screening and treatment programs, officials said.
"We hope to definitely see a downturn but it will take awhile," said Carol Steiner, director of the state's cancer control office. Women ages 40 to 64 are targeted for both screening and treatment because women in that age group tend to let annual Pap tests and breast exams slide.
Women like Susan Wallin of Dade County in northeast Georgia. "I hadn't seen a gynecologist for 10 years," admitted Wallin, 38, mother of four. "Then I bled for a whole month and still didn't see anyone. I knew something was wrong but I was trying to treat myself."
An appointment with a doctor in August confirmed what she suspected --- the beginning stages of cervical cancer. Employed but without health insurance, Wallin found herself caught in the gap that confronts many women: working and making too much money to qualify for standard Medicaid yet not wealthy enough to afford her own health insurance.
After learning through the local health department that she was eligible for Women's Health Medicaid, Wallin underwent successful surgery at Hutchison Medical Center in Fort Oglethorpe.
"The program definitely saved my life," she said. "Without it, I'd probably still be sitting there, wondering how I was going to pay for it. "Now, I tell every woman I know to get checked out. I'm shocked at how many women just stop seeing a gynecologist after they have children. They just think it's done and over with. Well, it could have really been done and over with had I not gone in."
Many African-American women seem particularly reluctant to come in for screening, observed Brenda Raper, nurse coordinator for the BreasTEST & More program with the Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness. Several factors could explain the hesitancy, she said, including distrust of the medical system, inability to pay for services and the knowledge that they are at greater risk of dying of cancer than white women.
"The biggest problem with black women coming in is the fear factor," Raper said. "They're so scared with what you're going to tell them, how they're going to get to the doctor if they have to go, how they're going to pay for it.
"I think fear kills more women than anything else." Aside from the eligibility requirements, the Women's Health Medicaid Program is similar to the state's standard Medicaid program, which provides health insurance for low-income families and the disabled. In addition to cancer treatment, participants receive coverage for other medical conditions such as hypertension or diabetes. A case manager is assigned upon enrollment to help with referrals and appointments.
The program is funded through a combination of government dollars --- $9 million in federal Medicaid funds and $3.5 million from the state. State funding comes from Georgia's share of the landmark settlement with tobacco companies --- $4.8 billion over 25 years.
Georgia's cervical and breast cancer treatment initiative is unique, officials point out. It's one of only three state programs in the nation with such broadly defined eligibility requirements.
It also could be called one of the first up-and-running clinical initiatives of Georgia's war on cancer, declared and launched by Gov. Roy Barnes more than a year ago.
Additional state-funded screening and treatment programs for other cancers are also on the agenda of the Georgia Cancer Coalition's long-term mission.
Cervical cancer is on the initial hit list because it's a disease where early detection really does save lives. The Pap test, a simple procedure that's performed during a woman's annual pelvic exam, has steadily reduced deaths from cervical cancer by 70 percent in recent decades.
Erica Sanchez, a 47-year-old Stone Mountain nursery school teacher, has been using the state's BreasTEST & More program for years. Recently, she underwent her annual breast checkup at Family Health Enterprise Clinic near Atlanta Medical Center, one of the clinics contracted by the state to provide mammography.
"It's free. I go because of that. I don't have a medical plan and you have to pay attention to your body," said Sanchez, who has a 7-year-old daughter.
"It's very important for every woman to maintain her health. When you are healthy, you can be more caring. You don't have the excuse that you don't feel well, that that's why you don't care about something."
About 24 percent of Georgians are not covered by health insurance, a figure expected to rise as job layoffs mount. Of that group, 110,000 women between the ages of 40 to 64 are uninsured or underinsured, state officials estimate. They hope to reach at least 15,000 of these women this year with screening. An estimated 1,200 are expected to be referred for treatment. To date, some 400 women have been enrolled in the new Medicaid program. Cervical cancer treatment typically costs $2,000 to $3,000 if caught early; breast cancer treatment costs can start at $10,000, officials said.
Whether or not the new program will help close the gap of health access and lower cancer deaths in Georgia remains to be seen. But officials are optimistic it will begin to make a dent in cancer, the second-leading cause of death in the state behind heart disease.
"This is finally an equal access program, something we really haven't had before," Steiner said. "The more we get women in early for the detection part, the better the treatment part will work." BY THE NUMBERS
BREAST CANCER 192,200: Annual U.S. cases Signs, symptoms: Abnormality in mammogram; breast lump, thickening, swelling, distortion or tenderness; skin irritation or dimpling; nipple pain, scaliness, or retraction. 97%: Five-year survival when diagnosed and treated early.
CERVICAL (UTERINE CERVIX) CANCER 12,800: Annual U.S. cases Signs, symptoms: Abnormal vaginal bleeding, spotting or discharge; pain and systemic symptoms. 70%: Five-year survival when diagnosed and treated early. Source: American Cancer Society
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov/cancer/nbccedp
- American Cancer Society: www.cancer.org
- National Cancer Institute: www.nci.nih.gov
- Georgia Breast Cancer Coalition: www.gabcc.org
- Society of Gynecologic Oncologists: www.sgo.org
WOMEN'S HEALTH MEDICAID PROGRAM
Purpose: To provide free treatment for breast and cervical cancers to low-income, uninsured women in Georgia.
Target population: An estimated 110,000 Georgia women, ages 40 to 64, who are uninsured or underinsured and do not receive regular health care screening.
Goal: To reduce by one-third the number of deaths in Georgia from breast and cervical cancers. An estimated 1,000 Georgia women will lose their lives this year from breast cancer and 130 will die of cervical cancer. Breast cancer is about 97 percent curable if caught early. Cervical cancer is 100 percent curable at early stages.
Eligibility: Participants must be Georgia women under 65 years of age, U.S. citizens or legal residents with no insurance, or inadequate insurance, who are not eligible for Medicaid. Annual income must not exceed $35,000 for a family or four or $17,000 for a single person.
Enrollment: Inquire at any local county health department. Ask for the Georgia Breast and Cervical Cancer program district coordinator.
Coverage: All treatment, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation are covered 100 percent. Prescription drugs and doctor's visits are be covered. Treatment is provided by a network of participating hospitals, clinics and private physicians. Coverage will last as long as the doctor deems is necessary. While enrolled, the program will cover other medical conditions. Caseworkers are assigned to help guide participants through the system and ensure that they complete treatment. Transportation costs also covered.
For more information: Call 404-657-6611 or 1-888-842-6355.
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TOBACCO KILLS MORE GEORGIANS THAN ALCOHOL, MURDER AUTO ACCIDENTS, AIDS & FIRE COMBINED
The Harbor Sound - December 11, 2001
Can't seem to kick the habit?
Help will soon be just a phone call away.
Atlanta Falcon's great Jessie Tuggle, DHR Commissioner Jim Martin, members of the State Tobacco Use Prevention Program and the American Cancer Society launched UNITE GOERIGA'S statewide toll-free Quit Line, 1-877-270-STOP, for tobacco users.
Quite Line is a resource that provided counseling, screening, support and referral services for all Georgia residents age 18 or older and concerned parents of adolescents using tobacco.
Quit Lien was introduced on the eve of the Great American Smokeout, a day when tobacco users are urged to quit for at least one day.
"The statewide Quit Line initiative is an easy way for Georgian's to connect with trained professional who can aid in cessation from all forms of tobacco including cigarettes, chew, cigars and pipes," said Heather Quinn, Tobacco Use Prevention Public Relations and Information Specialists, Coastal Heath District. (Glynn District includes: Bryan, Camden, Glynn, Liberty, Long, McIntosh) "We want to help those addicted to tobacco become non-users through this new resources that includes support tailored to the needs of each caller."
The Quit Line program launch is in collaboration with the Glynn Health District. Volunteers will distribute posters and other educational materials at local events and will be on hand to answer questions bout Quit Line's free services.
Local business, hospitals and physicians also are participating in the program by providing educational materials for employees and patients.
When a tobacco user calls the Quit Line, a counselor conducts an initial interview to determine substance usage and willingness to quit.
In assessing the caller's needs, multiple options are presented that might include: follow-up calls, as the individual reaches targeted quit date; literature on successful techniques for quitting; referral to organization and support groups within the individual's area; and four personal sessions with a Quit Line counselor.
"Tobacco quitters often face periods of relapse and remission and must be able to manage their cravings and withdrawl,"said Quinn.
The ability to quit tobacco addictions is an extremely tough challenge. The Quit Line offers an easy and effective resource to help Georgian's begin and maintain a personalized cessation program.
Twenty-four percent of Georgia adults smoke. An estimated 30,000 Georgia children begin smoking every year and another 10,000 begin to use spit tobacco.
Tobacco drains $2 billion in healthcare costs from Georgiaâs economy every year.
A minority of smokers achieves abstinence in an initial quit attempt.
More than 70 percent of the 50 million U.S. smokers try to quit, and 46 percent of smokers try to quit each year. More than 10,000 people die in Georgia every year from tobacco-related ill-nesses. That's more than all the deaths from alcohol, cocaine, heroin, AIDS, murder, suicide, auto accidents and fires combine.
A panel of 11 professionals from Georgia chose Group Health Cooperative (GHC) to manage Quit Line. GHC currently provides comprehensive Quit Line services to six states. Quit Line hours are (EST) Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Quit Line is closed on Sundays. All languages are available through Quit Line, and Spanish-speaking callers may call 1-877-266-3863.
Quit Line is funded by the master tobacco settlement and is a component of UNITE GEORIGA, a tobacco use prevention campaign jointly sponsored by the state and its 19 health districts to combat tobacco use.
The Quit Line campaign is one of several components in Georgia's comprehensive approach to increase awareness and change attitudes about tobacco use. The campaign began with successful secondhand smoking message, which continues.
Recent studies show that awareness of secondhand smoke dangers to children jumped from 4 percent to 32 percent during the campaign.
In 1998, Georgia was awarded $4.8 billion as one of 46 states in a landmark settlement against major tobacco companies, receiving the first allocation of $150 million during the 2000 legislative session.
Of that, $87 million funded health-related projects and $15.8 million was earmarked to fund tobacco use prevention, including the hiring of TUPS staff members in each of Georgia's 19 health districts to implement community based prevention programs.
For additional information please visit us at www.unitegeorgia.com
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GOVERNOR ROY E. BARNES: REMARKS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY
State Cancer Plan - December 8, 2001
Cancer killed 552,200 American last year. Grim statistics like that one have brought us together to talk about what we can do to aid in cancer prevention, treatment, and research.
State cancer initiatives and state cancer plans are a good way to help ensure that we are all working towards our common goal the eradication of cancer.
The National Dialogue on Cancer has set a goal for all states to develop a cancer plan by 2003 and implement it by 2005.
I am proud that Georgia is one of only 17 states that has an existing cancer plan. And additional eight states are preparing one for the first time and another seven are updating their old plans. I applaud their efforts, knowing how much hard, but worthwhile work it is to develop a cancer plan.
Developing a cancer plan was a priority for our state because Georgians have a higher rate of cancer than the average American.
And even with Georgia having some of the highest incident rates of cancer in the nation, we are not leaders in the field of cancer research and treatment so we decided to do something about it.
From our experiences, I am confident that other states can meet the goal of developing and implementing a plan within the next three years but, in order to do so, they must start now by setting goals.
We brought our stakeholders together, wrote a plan, and made cancer a priority.
When we announced the Georgia Cancer Coalition last year, we had five goals in mind:
To prevent cancer and detect existing cancers earlier through education and screening.
To improve access to quality care for all Georgians by establishing a state-wide treatment network.
To train top-notch cancer researchers and caregivers
To help the state economically by bringing pharmaceutical and research jobs to Georgia and by keeping patients here.
And, most importantly, to save more lives in the future by bringing the best doctors, treatment methods and technology to our state.
These goals guided the planning and implementation phase of our cancer plan and they are the benchmark for our success.
And I am pleased to report that we have already seen some success.
We have put $60 million of our tobacco settlement money towards the Georgia Cancer Coalition, which will include support for initiatives in cancer detection, prevention, research and treatment. And some of the money will go towards smoking prevention and cessation efforts.
We aim to put a total of $300 - $400 million of our tobacco settlement funds towards this initiative over the next 5 ö 7 years.
I am going to continue to recommend appropriations for the Coalition each and every year I am Governor.
We have also recruited the first fifteen distinguished clinicians and scientists of the Georgia Cancer Coalition, who will serve as the intellectual capital of the project. We plan to eventually bring 150 to Georgia.
And we have named Grady Hospital in Atlanta one of three center of excellence that will anchor the Georgia Cancer Coalition.
We plan to do all that is necessary for the centers of excellence to earn the highest designation from the National Cancer Institute.
The Georgia Cancer Coalition is a public/private partnership that will bring our resources together ö hospitals and universities, biotech firms, civic groups and non-profit and government agencies to help treat, prevent and save lives from cancer.
It didn't happen overnight, we planned ahead, set goals, and involved our stakeholders. I want to encourage other states to do the same because those were the keys to our success.
Now, I want to introduce Governor Tom Ridge, who has sent us a taped message.
I also want to recognize Governor Ridge, former chair of the State Health Plans Committee and Gary Gurian for all their hard work to help develop cancer plans in each and every state.
You are the leaders that can help encourage and facilitate the development of state cancer plans.
I encourage you to do whatever you can to help move us towards our goal of developing a cancer plan for each state.
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GOV. BARNES PLEDGES TO BACK BIOTECH INDUSTRY
The Atlanta Business Chronicle - December 7-13, 2001
By Julie Bryant
Georgia's biotech leaders want more state support for getting new adventures off the ground and for increasing the state's life sciences profile.
The support could be on the way.
In a speech before members of the life sciences community assembled at Georgia's first-ever Life Sciences Summit, Gov. Roy Barnes said he was reviewing new tax incentives and regulatory reforms to foster biotech development in the state.
"Biotech, if a state is going to prosper, has to be a major part of the base on which the state prospers, " Barnes said. "States that don't have vision for how to make (biotech) marketable will not be in the hunt for prosperity in the future."
More than 450 people turned out for the Summit, held Nov. 29 at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead.
Although Georgia's life sciences community has grown, by some estimates to include more than 169 companies, the state lags behind other biotech hubs, including North Carolina's Research Triangle Park.
"It's a real shame that we don't have appropriate construction (to house new biotech companies in Georgia)," said Raymond Schinazi, director and founder of Pharmasset Inc., an anti-viral and anti-cancer drug discovery and development company with U.S. headquarters and research facilities in Tucker.
Biotech companies, already faced with the regulatory red tape they must cut through in order to get products to market, shou8ld not have to deal with red tape when trying to nail down intellectual property rights from nonprofit organizations, Schinazi said.
Nonprofit organizations can include universities, often the launching pad for start-up biotech companies.
The state also should support a corporate insurance initiative, which would allow local biotech companies to purchase insurance through one source, and have a chance at paying better rates, Schinazi said.
More seed funding is also essential, local biotech leaders say.
Results of a recent study commissioned by the Georgia Research Alliance, which funnels state money into the local biotech community, show a $5 million biosciences seed fund is needed to advance early-stage biotech start-ups.
Try closer to $200 million, said Dr. T. Forcht Dagi, a managing partner of Cordova Ventures, one of Atlanta's key biotech investment firms.
"Right now, funding rounds are $10 million," Dagi said.
"We would like to see a $200 million fund spread out over three to five years. Nothing attracts a lot of money like a little bit of money and that would be enough to really make a difference."
Up to $400 million of the state's tobacco settlement money will go into the development of the Georgia Cancer Coalition, expected to give rise to a statewide network of state-of-the-art cancer treatment facilities and research programs.
The coalition is projected to involve a total investment of more than $1 billion over the next seven to 10 years, a combination of state, federal and private funding.
"Biotech is key to the future economically and if we can jump-start biotech in this state, this will be the cheapest investment we have ever made," Barnes said.
The local life sciences community has taken on most of its shape in the last few years, fueled by genomic discoveries stemming from the Human Genome Project, which has established a first-time map of a human's entire genetic makeup.
Nationally, the biotech industry is enjoying its moment in the spotlight.
In 2000, more than $33 billion was raised by U.S. life sciences companies, more than in the previous five years.
Georgia, meanwhile, is hanging on tightly to a national ranking reported by Ernst & Young LLP, which shows the state in 11th place for overall biotech presence.
And it appears things may just be heating up, said Max Wallace, CEO of North Carolina-based Cogent Neuroscience Inc.
"We thought the Human Genome Project was so whiz-bang only last year, but now we are realizing the limitations," said Wallace, who was a summit panelist.
Scientists have the map, but don't know yet how to read it, said Nina Sawczuk, CEO of Zygogen LLC, an Atlanta biotech company that uses zebrafish to model human diseases.
Since 1993, the number of Georgia life sciences companies has grown by 100, according to a report presented at the summit by Mike Henos, managing director of venture capital firm Alliance Technology Ventures.
The report was compiled, in part, by Atlanta Biotech Network, a nonprofit student-run organization set up to connect students interested in biotechnology with representatives of Southeastern biotech and health-care-related firms, as well as venture capitalists and patent lawyers.
Not only have the number of companies grown, but also the number of jobs created, Henos said. Almost 4,000 life sciences jobs have been added since 1993, he said.
Life sciences includes pharmaceutical. Biotech and medical device companies.
"For every $18,000 in venture capital invested (locally), we create a job," Henos said.
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GEORGIA CANCER COALITION DIRECTOR JOINS ANDREW YOUNG SCHOOL
Russ Toal, named director of the Georgia Cancer Coalition in May by Governor Roy Barnes, has joined the Andrew Young School. "Russ will hold the title of Distinguished Fellow in Health Policy," said Dean Roy Bahl, "and he will continue as a valued member of our Board of Advisors. We are honored to have him join us."
In announcing Toal's appointment as director, Governor Roy Barnes said, "his focus on community health and his ability to work with the private sector make him uniquely qualified for the job. I can think of no better person to make this initiative a success."
Toal is the former commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Health. He has served as president and CEO of Georgia 1st, Inc., a health care provider network , and as director of corporate health services for Emory Healthcare. Prior to joining Emory, he served the Georgia Department of Medical Assistance for 11 years as commissioner and deputy commissioner. Toal holds a Master's of Public Health in Health Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in Georgia, claiming nearly 14,000 lives every year. The Georgia Cancer Coalition is the state's $1 billion, 10-year initiative to improve cancer prevention, detection, treatment, training and clinical research, and to build a statewide network of cancer care. Toal will help the state build a public/private framework to combine the efforts of medical schools and research organizations with those of private organizations that are fighting cancer. He will lead efforts to recruit pharmaceutical, genomics and biotech corporations and leading oncology scholars and researchers to work in partnership with the coalition.
Barnes announced in September that 15 of the country's leading cancer clinicians and scientists had agreed to join the coalition to serve in universities across the state. The General Assembly appropriated $4.8 million to fund 30 eminent clinicians and researchers. Plans are to hire 150 top specialists.
Spreading the word
Toal gave a presentation on the future of the Georgia Cancer Coalition in October at the Science in Savannah Symposium, hosted by Armstrong Atlantic State University. Karen Minyard, interim director of the Georgia Health Policy Center, also spoke at the event. A leading expert in rural health care, Minyard addressed cancer ethics from diagnosis to end of life.
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IN FIGHTING THE NATION'S MOST INSIDIOUS DISEASE, STATES HAVE LONG DEFERRED TO THE FEDS. GEORGIA IS CHANGING THAT
CANCER OFFENSIVE Governing Magazine - December 2001
By Alan Greenblatt
Georgia has a cancer problem. All parts of the country do, of course, but Georgia's is one of the more discouraging ones. The overall state death rate among men from lung and prostate malignancies is 20 percent higher than the national average. More than one in three Georgia residents can expect to contract some form of the disease over the course of their lifetimes. And treatment is uneven, with blacks 27 percent more likely than whites to die of cancer, and rural residents suffering mortality rates significantly higher than in the cities and suburbs. Over the years, Georgia's elected leaders have dealt with this situation pretty much the same way other states have dealt with it. That is, they have accepted fate and taken whatever money the federal government was willing to provide. And yet the state--the nation's ninth largest in population--ranks just 27th in the country in receipt of federal cancer research dollars. Under its current governor, Roy Barnes, Georgia is trying something very different. Barnes has decided that the state needs an ambitious cancer program of its own. He is committing big money to it: $400 million in state funds over 10 years, an amount that includes a good chunk of the money available to the state from the legal settlement with tobacco companies. It's not just the money that represents a breakthrough in health policy. It's the philosophy behind it. States, although they regulate health care institutions and devote large sums to cancer treatment through Medicaid, have historically done little to combat cancer as a whole. They have had to be prodded even to maintain registries of cancer and tumor cases within their borders. Research funding has, for the most part, been viewed by states as a responsibility of the federal government. One of the central aims of Georgia's project is to change those attitudes. "Part of the problem of controlling cancer has been this major disconnection between what we know we can do already in America to save lives and what we're actually doing about it," says Jonathan W. Simons, director of Emory University's Winship Cancer Center, who was personally recruited by Barnes to spread the gospel of prevention and to oversee the $100 million research facility currently being built on the Emory campus. Despite the heavy commitment in state funds--the legislature appropriated $60 million this year alone--Georgia's cancer project is a public-private partnership. In addition to the state's eventual $400 million, the plan is for some $600 million to be raised from federal, philanthropic and various private sources. The state is hoping to set up a large matching-grant pool, in which tobacco-settlement dollars are used to leverage and attract other money. The scheme has enjoyed some notable success already. The Avon Products Foundation alone has given $7.5 million, its donation tied to the legislature's appropriating funds for a new cancer clinic at Atlanta's public Grady Memorial Hospital. The enabling legislation in Georgia was written in such a way as to avoid setting up big and costly new divisions within the state health department. A smaller coordinating board has been charged with dispensing grants, promoting cancer education and looking at the big picture on research and equal access to treatment. No other state has enacted anything as dramatic as Georgia did this year, but states across the country are beginning to get the idea that there are better things for them to do in the cancer war than simply wait for federal money to come in. In the past two years, for example, 19 states have asked for and been given waivers of federal law so that they can use Medicaid dollars not only to screen low-income women for breast cancer but to actually treat the sick women they diagnose. Another 27 states have started the waiver process. Other small but concrete steps are being taken in a variety of places. North Carolina, for instance, has approved new funding for colorectal screenings and has improved the test used by the state's doctors for cervical cancer. This year, 14 states passed laws requiring insurers to pay for routine costs of care, such as blood work, that result when patients participate in clinical cancer trials. Before taking up his job in October as federal head of Homeland Security, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge played a leading role in the National Dialogue on Cancer, calling on each state to have a comprehensive plan on its books by 2005 and a statewide cancer registry by 2003. Pennsylvania has one of the more active and ambitious cancer programs outside Georgia. The state's efforts began as far back as 1980 but have stepped up since the 1998 tobacco settlement. Pennsylvania is now devoting $65 million in tobacco money specifically to cancer research and is raising additional capital with a voluntary income tax checkoff. The state funds research and runs targeted media campaigns aimed at citizens thought to be at greatest risk.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has begun encouraging states to address the problem of cancer generally, to track related diseases and monitor whether resources are being devoted proportionately to different areas within state borders. The aim of such comprehensive planning is to increase the likelihood of capturing some of the risk factors that overlap many different cancers. States are responding to the challenge. Several have developed comprehensive monitoring plans, while others are scrambling to do so under deadlines imposed by legislatures or by executive order. Texas has been in the cancer planning business since 1985, when it established a coordinating board to keep track of its programs. The Texas Cancer Coalition is a modest effort, currently funded at $4 million a year, but it does award grants to 27 different initiatives around the state, and works with the Texas Medical Association to provide oncology training to family practitioners, disseminating information through seminars, a volunteer speakers bureau and the Web. "If one is practicing in Houston, then a physician has lots of resources available to them," says Mickey L. Jacobs, executive director of the Texas coalition. "In contrast, a rural physician might not be as well prepared." A focus of the Texas effort is early detection of colorectal cancer. Ninety percent of patients with the disease survive when it is detected prior to metastasis, but only about 8 percent survive if treatment doesn't begin before then. Harrison County in East Texas, noticing from its research that it has a higher rate of colorectal cancer than its neighbors, applied for a grant from the state coalition to encourage African-American males to get tested. Advertising in a minority newspaper and on gospel and oldies radio stations, and making in-person presentations to groups, the program in its first year offered counseling and other information services to 2,850 individuals, referring 115 of them to the county's two gastroenterologists for colonoscopies. "We are trying to reach a group who never thought of having colon screening," says Georgia Grant, the program director at the Longview Wellness Center. "For those who saw Katie Couric and still didn't get enough information, we're filling the gap." In addition to recruiting more patients for treatment, states are placing new emphasis on getting long-term research done at home. Another important aspect of many state cancer efforts, after all, is the hope of reaping economic benefits. The conventional wisdom holds that biotechnology will be the nation's next great growth industry, and one incentive for investing substantial funds in the cancer war-- in addition to saving lives--is to be competitive in that field. In Georgia, Governor Barnes has declared a goal of attracting 150 top cancer scientists to Georgia over the next six years. In September, he announced the hiring of specialists from many of the best-known research facilities in the country, including the National Cancer Institute, the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Johns Hopkins, Stanford and Harvard universities. Meanwhile, Augusta, Savannah and other Georgia cities are already bidding to host the next cancer center that will get state funding. "If you're attacking the cancer problem and growing the research communities," says Emory's Jonathan Simons, "it actually increases the intellectual capital. It is about improving the health of Georgians but just as much about growing economic health in Georgia."
New cancer cases, 2001
NUMBER OF NEW
STATE CANCER CASES
New York 83,200
New Jersey 41,200
North Carolina 37,300
South Carolina 18,800
West Virginia 10,900
New Mexico 6,900
New Hampshire 5,800
Rhode Island 5,600
South Dakota 3,600
North Dakota 3,100
Source: American Cancer Society
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TOP SCIENTISTS JOIN CANCER FIGHT
BYLINE: JAMES SALZER, STAFF
PUBLICATION: The Atlanta Constitution
Georgia's $1 billion initiative to fight cancer is starting to attract top research talent to the state.
Gov. Roy Barnes on Monday introduced some of the new products of the initiative: 15 clinicians and scientists recruited from a number of the country's most prestigious research institutions.
The researchers will serve as distinguished cancer clinicians and scientists at colleges across the state, including several in Atlanta and at the University of Georgia.
Barnes called them the "intellectual capital" of his initiative to improve cancer detection, treatment and research in Georgia.
Two come from Johns Hopkins University, and others from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, Harvard Medical School, Stanford University Medical Center, the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and the Mayo Clinic.
"These outstanding individuals will work together statewide to win the fight against this deadly disease and provide the best possible care for the citizens of Georgia," he said.
"They will help us build facilities and talent that rival Sloan- Kettering or Johns Hopkins for cancer treatment and research. We already have some of the nation's finest medical professionals in Georgia, and now we will build comprehensive cancer centers that give us access to the most advanced types of clinical trials."
Barnes said researchers coming to Morehouse School of Medicine and Emory University will study the disparity of cancer among African- Americans. The researchers also include experts in leukemia and pediatric cancers, state-of-the-art cancer surgery, molecular biology and oncology, microbiology and biomedical engineering.
"This is just the first round of recruitment," the governor said. "We plan for more scientists and clinicians to come to Georgia, bringing their research funding and capabilities as well."
Otis Brawley, who is coming to Georgia from the National Cancer Institute, will work on the disparity study and serve as director of the Georgia Cancer Coalition Center of Excellence at Grady Memorial Hospital.
The cancer initiative is being funded in part by money the state receives from the national legal settlement with the tobacco industry.
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STATE AIMING TO CREATE A WIDE CANCER NETWORK PUBLIC, PRIVATE FUNDS WOULD PROVIDE BEST CARE FOR ALL
BYLINE: JIM THARPE, STAFF
PUBLICATION: The Atlanta Journal and Constitution
Georgia's billion-dollar effort to fight cancer will not create massive, centralized institutions like the world-famous Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, but the results could be just as impressive.
"What we will have is more of a network than a single place," said Nancy Paris, vice president of the Georgia Cancer Coalition. "The result for the average Georgian will be that for the first time we will be able to provide the highest level of care closest to the person who needs it, whether that person is in rural Georgia or the inner city."
That network not only will translate into buildings, but also, with the Internet, an improved network among the state's cancer physicians and a new group of clinicians being brought to the state.
Gov. Roy Barnes launched the cancer coalition last year. He envisions a consortium of researchers and health care providers working to develop new cancer-fighting drugs while improving screening and treatment of the disease.
The state will establish three "centers of excellence" to care for the most difficult cancer cases. The first will be at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.
Those centers will be at the top of a system of care supported by hometown doctors and health providers who will offer cancer screening, treatment and education.
Construction of the Grady facility, which will require renovation of the hospital's ninth and 10th floors, could begin as soon as December, but some parts of the initiative already are under way.
"There has already been some progress," said Otis Brawley, an Emory University professor and medical oncologist who will be in charge of Grady's cancer center. "You have doctors throughout the state who have begun cooperating in new ways and that will intensify in the months ahead."
Brawley said one of the most important aspects of the initiative will be to bring the benefits of clinical trials to people in all areas of the state. Clinical trials are used for testing experimental drugs and are a key part of cancer research.
"We want people in rural Georgia to have the same opportunity to get on these research programs and in clinical trials as people in the big city," Brawley said. "I would like to see 200 people in clinical trials at Grady next year."
The cancer initiative is especially relevant in Georgia, Brawley said, since the state has higher cancer rates than many other states and because serious disparities exist among the state's residents.
"There are substantial disparities among not only blacks, but among poor rural whites," he said. "When poor people have a problem, they tend not to seek medical help. Poverty forces people to think in different ways."
The cancer initiative will focus on those disparities, bringing preventive care and screening closer to rural poor and those in the inner city, often through existing facilities.
That part of the initiative is critical, said Maggie Riley, director of the cancer center at St. Joseph's Hospital of Atlanta. She said 80 percent to 90 percent of cancer patients live beyond easy access to the academic medical centers where advanced care traditionally has been provided. Georgia's approach generally follows the recommendations of a national forum called the National Dialogue on Cancer, led by former President George Bush and his wife, Barbara.
Barnes describes the initiative as a leveraging of public and private efforts. The public money comes from the tobacco settlement and the private money from foundations, philanthropic groups and private businesses. "I'm more excited about this cancer initiative than anything we've done," Barnes said.
The initiative could ultimately spend up to $400 million of the state's settlement with the tobacco industry. He expects the private sector to provide an additional $600 million during the next decade. Nearly $44 million was approved by the Legislature for initial funding.
Barnes earlier this year introduced 15 clinicians and physicians brought to the state from some of the country's most prestigious research institutions. The researchers will serve as cancer scientists and clinicians at colleges across the state.
GEORGIA CANCER FACTS
- Cancer is the second leading cause of death in Georgia, causing almost a quarter of all deaths in the state.
- This year, a projected 13,700 Georgians will die of cancer and almost 33,000 will develop the disease.
- Cancers of the lung, breast, prostate, and colorectum account for more than half of Georgia's cancer deaths.
- Under current trends, one in two men and one in three women in Georgia will develop cancer during their lifetime.
- Only about half of Georgia women 40 and older are screened for breast cancer and about half the adults in the state are screened for colorectal cancer. Early detection can affect survival rates for these cancers.
- Areas with high cancer death rates include Rome, Augusta, Fulton County and many rural counties in South Georgia and east Georgia.
--- Georgia Cancer Coalition
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INVITATIONS FOR PROPOSALS FOR CANCER PREVENTION, EDUCATION AND SCREENING GRANTS
The Georgia Cancer Coalition, the Division of Public Health of the Department of Human Resources and the Department of Community Health is seeking innovative community-based solutions to increase cancer prevention and screening capacity for underserved Georgians in rural parts of the state." Go to http://www.dch.state.ga.us and click on Georgia Cancer Coalition for more information.
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GOVERNOR ROY BARNES ANNOUNCES GEORGIA CANCER COALITION
These young people have spelled it out for us today. We need to focus on cancer in Georgia.
For today, 35 people in Georgia will die of cancer, and 90 more will be diagnosed.
By the end of the year, we will have lost 14,000 citizens to this devastating disease and 30,000 will be fighting to defeat this killer.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in Georgia, accounting for one in four deaths each year - chances are someone you know, or even you personally, have been touched by this dreaded disease.
And while Georgia is the 10th largest state in the nation, we are only 27th in the amount of funding we currently get from the federal government.
The statistics are grim. But they are the reality we face.
I'm here today to tell you that we are going to do something about it. Starting now, Georgia is going to join those leading the fight to save lives from cancer. Starting today, we are going to do all we can to give hope to those who already have cancer and help keep others from getting it.
This spring, I shared my vision for Georgia's role in cancer treatment and prevention with the leaders of our medical and research universities as well as leading activists who have long been part of the fight.
We talked about the resources that each group had individually and what an unstoppable machine we could be if we put all those resources together.
And I am proud to announce today that from these discussions has come the Georgia Cancer Coalition.
This Coalition will bring together Georgia's leading hospitals and universities, biotech firms, civic groups and non-profit and government agencies to help treat, prevent and save lives from cancer.
It will be a public/private partnership that will work to build a world-class, comprehensive cancer control program that will benefit our state and eventually, the nation.
The Georgia Cancer Coalition is being set up with five goals:
To prevent cancer and detect existing cancers earlier through education and screening.
To improve access to quality care for all Georgians by establishing a state-wide treatment network.
To train top-notch cancer researchers and caregivers.
To help the state economically by bringing pharmaceutical and research jobs to Georgia and by keeping patients here.
And, most importantly, to save more lives in the future by bringing the best doctors, treatment methods and technology to our state.
These are lofty goals. And it is going to take a lot of hard work and effort to reach them.
No one ever thought this was going to be easy. The most important things we do rarely are.
And I cannot emphasize enough that this is not an effort that the state will - or should - take on alone. The price is too costly and the scope is too vast for any one entity to manage.
But, as Governor, I am going to do all I can to help guarantee the success of the Georgia Cancer Coalition.
To start, I am going to ask the legislature to help fund this effort.
To be done right, this initiative will cost approximately $800 million over the next five to seven years.
I am recommending that the state contribute $300 to $400 million in primarily tobacco settlement money over this same period of time.
I will continue to recommend additional funds each year I am Governor. I have said all along that I wanted two-thirds of the tobacco settlement to be spent on health care, and I cannot think of a better commitment than this.
But the state will not be able to fund this alone - we have other obligations we have to meet. If we are going to make this happen, we will have to have the financial support of foundations, pharmaceutical and biotechnological firms and corporations throughout Georgia. We have begun to talk to a number of potential contributors and I expect to be able to announce the first significant funding sources within the next weeks.
If we are successful in our fundraising efforts for the Coalition, we should be able to leverage our success to receive a bigger piece of federal funds designated for cancer treatment and research in the future.
Let me tell you what this money will pay for.
We plan to bring 150 eminent clinicians and scientists to Georgia to work at our medical centers coordinating research and developing new treatment methods and technologies.
We are going to establish an extensive treatment network - anchored by three cancer centers of excellence. We plan to do all that is necessary for the centers of excellence to earn the highest designation from the National Cancer Institute - the same designation held by M. D. Anderson and Johns Hopkins.
And this network will be expanded through treatment centers in hospitals and coordination with private physicians throughout the state so that every cancer patient in Georgia - no matter where they live or what their resources, will have access to cutting edge treatment and technology.
As you can see from this map, the problem of cancer is throughout the state - not just in the rural areas, or just the metropolitan ones.
So, the first priority of the coalition will be on treatment and screening across Georgia, starting with the areas of highest incidence. No one should have to go far from home to get treatment that will help them detect or fight this dreaded disease. And we will do more public education and awareness to help reduce the chances of getting cancer in the first place.
We are fortunate in that we already have a lot of the resources we need to get this started. We just needed to put them together.
For once we get everyone working together, we can begin to move forward.
The slogan we have chosen for the Georgia Cancer Coalition is "mobilizing Georgia, immobilizing cancer."
Everyone knows that troops don't move without a leader. This Coalition will be the leader who takes out troops to battle and doesn't give up until we win - and in the end we will win.
I hope you'll join the fight.
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GOVERNOR ROY BARNES REMARKS ON THE GEORGIA CANCER COALITION/AVON PRODUCTS FOUNDATION
I am delighted to be here today to announce the first major private partner for the Georgia Cancer Coalition.
When we announced the formation of the Coalition last month, I said that this was not something that the state could do alone - that it would the support from the private sector to accomplish all our goals.
Well, let me tell you, the private sector has just stepped up in a big way.
Avon Products, Inc. and the Avon Products Foundation have given a total of $7.5 million through the Winship Cancer Institute for research prevention and treatment activities for cancer in Georgia. $3.3 million of that money will form the Avon Products Foundation Translational Breast Cancer Research Laboratory and the Avon Products Foundation Comprehensive Breast Center. These funds were raised by the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade here in Georgia and across the U.S.
Put simply, Avon is providing part of the funding for a national model of its kind - one that will address the issue of breast cancer at its epicenter in Georgia - urban Atlanta. The highest incidence of breast cancer in Georgia is in African American women and this breast cancer center will put cutting-edge treatment and research right where it is needed the most.
The research and treatment center will be housed at Grady Memorial Hospital, managed by the Georgia Cancer Coalition and staffed by faculty from both Emory University and the Morehouse School of Medicine.
This center is exactly the kind of partnership that will make the Cancer Coalition successful - hospitals, research universities and private foundations coming together there to fight this important battle.
This center will be our first Cancer Center of Excellence.
Behind me today are two important groups of women - breast cancer patients and those who were willing to walk 60 miles earlier this year to help find a cure - including three members of my own staff.
The money raised by the 2,500 women and men in Georgia and thousands of others throughout the country who participated in other Avon 3-Day events, is helping to fund this new institution.
The Avon Breast Cancer Crusade is making a difference and this center is one more important step.
The research laboratory will allow us to attract world class scholars to study genomics - this relatively new area of study will eventually allow doctors to help predict who may get cancer, detect problems earlier and determine the best methods to treat the disease.
The treatment center will include mammography, diagnostic and treatment services, genetic counseling and support services for patients - including part of Georgia's medically underserved community.
And the best news for the Georgia Cancer Coalition may be that this type of investment and facility may help to attract even more dollars from the National Cancer Institute for our efforts.
It's always exciting to see what was once only a hopeful idea start to become a reality. When we started down this road earlier this year, all we had were our hopes. This commitment from Avon will not only help the Georgia Cancer Coalition reach its goals - it will help save the lives of thousands of women in Georgia and across the nation. We will never be able to thank them enough.
I've also included the following excerpted release from Emory. The Emory Website is, of course, slanted toward Emory, so I have used their information to draft the following article:
Avon Products First Private Partner for Georgia Cancer Coalition
Governor Roy Barnes held a press conference at the Capital on December 13, 2000 to declare Avon Products the first major private partner for the Georgia Cancer Coalition and to announce Grady Memorial Hospital as the first of three Centers of Excellence he plans to serve as "anchors" in the extensive statewide treatment network. This network will be expanded through treatment centers and coordination with private physicians throughout the state.
With representatives from Avon by his side, cancer survivors and Avon walkers and representatives from Morehouse School of Medicine, Emory University's Winship Cancer Institute and Grady behind him, Governor Barnes recognized Avon for its gifts totaling $7.5 million to build a new research laboratory and comprehensive breast cancer treatment center that will be a key component of the Center of Excellence at Grady. Emory and Morehouse physicians will work jointly at the center to provide cutting edge clinical trials and treatment options.
"Put simply," said the governor, "Avon is providing part of the funding for a national model of its kind - one that will address the issue of breast cancer at its epicenter in Georgia - urban Atlanta. The highest incidence of breast cancer in Georgia is in African-American women and this breast cancer center will put cutting-edge treatment and research right where it is needed the most."
Kathleen Walas, President of the Avon Products Foundation, said, "We hope that by forging this new alliance and working together, Avon and the Georgia Cancer Coalition will have a significant impact on the breast cancer cause."
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GOVERNOR BARNES MEETS WITH BUSINESS, FOUNDATION LEADERS IN PUSH FOR CUTTING-EDGE STATEWIDE CANCER INITIATIVE
In an October 25, 2000 speech to key leaders from the Georgia business and foundation community, Governor Roy Barnes shared his vision for a bold initiative to make Georgia a national leader in cancer treatment and research.
"Georgia has some of the highest incidence rates of cancer in the country, yet we are not a leader in the cancer field," the governor told the group assembled at the Governor's Mansion for a breakfast meeting. He said that many of Georgia's citizens must leave the state to take advantage of cutting-edge treatment and research offered elsewhere. He also told the group that unless current trends are reversed, one-in-two males and one-in-three females in Georgia will develop cancer in their lifetimes.
The governor said he believes there has never been a better time in medical history to reduce cancer deaths dramatically. He cited the promise of breakthroughs in cancer prevention and treatment being brought about by the new interaction of genetics, biotechnology and computational science and said that states that seize this opportunity will reap enormous benefits for their citizens as well as their economies.
He said that Georgia is uniquely positioned to be a leader in these new opportunities. He said the Georgia Research Alliance is an excellent example of unique alliances that have been formed and continue to be formed in this state. He then said, " I want to capitalize on and leverage these alliances in a way that no other state has done to make Georgia a leader in cancer education, prevention, treatment, training and research. He concluded by telling them that he was going to formally announce the establishment of the Georgia Cancer Coalition in a few weeks and needed their support and assistance in transforming this vision into a reality.
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CANCER SECOND LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH IN GEORGIA, NEW STUDY SHOWS
This year an estimated 32,900 Georgians will develop cancer and 13,700 will die from the disease, according to a report released this week by the Georgia Department of Human Resourcesâ Division of Public Health and the American Cancer Society, Southeastern Division (serving Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina). The Georgia Cancer Data Report 2000 is the first look at cancer patterns using data from the statewide cancer registry.
"This report allows us to see the immense impact of cancer on Georgians," says Kathleen E. Toomey, M.D., M.P.H, director of the Division of Public Health. "Unless current trends are reversed, a citizen of our state will be diagnosed with cancer every 16 minutes and another will die of cancer about every 38 minutes."
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in Georgia, accounting for one in four deaths each year. More than half of those deaths, 54 percent, are caused by cancers of the lung, breast, prostate and colorectum. The report also found that cancer places a greater burden on African Americans. Twenty-seven percent more African-Americans in Georgia will die of cancer than whites. However, many cancers can be treated successfully if detected early, and many can be prevented through measures such as healthy eating, exercising, using sunscreen and avoiding tobacco use.
The cancer registry systematically encourages physicians and hospitals to report cases of cancer to the Division of Public Health for analysis. The information is intended to help public health officials identify trends for the more prevalent types of cancers and set guidelines to help health care providers and advocates plan better prevention, education, screening, research and treatment.
"The Georgia Cancer Data Report 2000 provides a sound scientific basis for collaboration among public and private medical providers to reduce the often preventable burden of cancer-related illness and cancer deaths in Georgia," says Toomey.
To obtain a copy of the Georgia Cancer Data Report 2000, call the Georgia Department of Human Resources, 404/657-6611 or the American Cancer Society, Southeast Division, 1-800-ACS-2345, or go to http://www.ph.dhr.state.ga.us/programs/cancer/pdfs/2000report.pdf.
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