Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Group Pushes Access to Cancer Treatments; American Cancer Society's Goal Is to Open Clinical Trials to More Floridians

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Group Pushes Access to Cancer Treatments; American Cancer Society's Goal Is to Open Clinical Trials to More Floridians

Article excerpt

Byline: CHERIE BLACK, The Times-Union

Florida ranks second in the nation in cancer affliction and deaths, but 20th in federal funding to fight the disease. In an effort to reverse that disparity, the Florida Division of the American Cancer Society is launching its own remedy.

Florida Dialogue on Cancer is a collaboration of public, private and non-profit sectors looking to enhance Florida's cancer research infrastructure and improve Floridians' access to the latest treatments, said Ralph DeVitto, chief operating officer of the American Cancer Society, Florida Division. The collaboration was patterned after the National Dialogue on Cancer launched by former President Bush and includes local institutions such as Mayo Clinic Jacksonville.

The American Cancer Society puts Florida second behind California in terms of cancer incidence and mortality and shows the state receives approximately $38 million annually from the National Cancer Institute. California receives about $650 million annually -- nearly 17 times what Florida receives.

"It takes funding to get funding. . . . Florida has the burden of the federal funds flowing elsewhere," DeVitto said. "California did what we're doing many years ago and has made tremendous strides. Florida would see the same thing happen and the need is greater."

DeVitto said Florida Dialogue on Cancer is asking the Legislature to invest $500 million over the next five years to enhance Florida's cancer research infrastructure.

Research shows an investment of that size can help move Florida from 20th to fifth in terms of funding within 10 years, he said. The investment would increase annual federal funding to about $250 million. The money would be allocated to the Florida Cancer Council, which was created by the state during the last legislative session.

The council would make grants available to Florida cancer research institutions through a competitive, peer-reviewed grant process. The applications would need to demonstrate that the money would be used to expand Florida's existing cancer research infrastructure, DeVitto said.

"Hopefully we're going to have success with the Legislature and they'll see the impact in the fight against cancer," he said. "There will be a reduction in cancer incidents and mortality and there will be a great economic impact."

State Sen. Stephen Wise, R-Jacksonville, said although he would be happy to support an initiative decreasing cancer incidents, there are many issues on the table including nursing homes and medical malpractice, and he doesn't see where the $100 million a year would come from. …

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