Cancer Factions Unite as One to Get Federal Funding
By Brynn Mandel
PROSPECT, CT Which is more important, a breast or a lung? A colon or a pancreas? With different interest groups lobbying for money and attention for their respective cancer causes be it breast cancer, leukemia or some other form of the disease the scene in Washington, D.C., can sometimes get ugly.
Body parts are pitted against body parts in the quest for federal funding.
"Everybody focuses on their own body parts or tumor types," said Greg Brozeit, a consultant for California-based International Myeloma Foundation.
Rather than remain in the fray, Brozeit's group has joined with a growing coalition of more than 40 organizations aiming to "open up and bust out of the current way of thinking" when it comes to cancer research and funding.
Called One Voice Against Cancer, the nearly 3-year-old coalition seeks to use its collective clout to get as much cancer research funding as possible.
"We need to begin to be unified. What we really have to do is try to get the big chunks of money, rather than having us all cannibalize each other," Brozeit said in a telephone interview from his California home. "If we fixate on a particular cancer, that may close a lot of avenues and doors."
On Tuesday, Brozeit will visit Prospect Public Library from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. to tell Greater Waterbury cancer patients and their families about this cooperative approach for federal research funding.
By working with the collective group of cancer patients, rather than lobbying only individually for the International Myeloma Foundation which offers myeloma patient and family support as well as advocacy he isn't betraying his group's cause, he said. That's because emerging scientific discoveries of how to treat and understand cancer at the molecular and genomic level can in many cases be applied across different types of cancer.
"You may find out that the drug that we use for this particular type of breast cancer may also work for myeloma," said Brozeit.
Other organizations in the coalition range from the United Ostomy Association to the American Cancer Society, the largest cancer research funding organization in the world.
In recent years, the push has been to get federal funding of the National Institutes of Health doubled from current levels. That's because the answer to cancer screening, treatment and perhaps a cure lies in funding, said Unice Lieberman, spokeswoman for One Voice Against Cancer and the American Cancer Society.
No other source comes close to what the federal government in the amount of money given to that end, One Voice Against Cancer advocates agree. Last year, the American Cancer Society raised $100 million for cancer research.
This year alone, the National Cancer Institute will spend $4.2 billion, which is why coming together to lobby the government for funding is so important, Lieberman said. "We're sort of a drop in the bucket next to them," she said, adding that, by increasing overall funding, many cancer groups benefit.
"There are certain issues that we all have in common," Lieberman said. "It's in everybody's interest to get the (National Cancer Institute) funded."
Robin and Michael Tuohy, Prospect residents who started the local support group that's bringing Brozeit to speak, said the One Voice Against Cancer approach seems to make sense.
The Tuohys started their support group after discovering in September 2000 that Michael had multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer that afflicts the bones.
"It does sound like it makes sense," said Robin, noting that there's strength in numbers. "We shouldn't be fighting each other, we should all be going for the same purpose, which is a cure. We feel that OVAC is probably the future because it will benefit the majority of the people."
The third annual Once Voice Against Cancer Advocacy Day will be held June 3 and 4 in Washington, D.C. Patients and organizations will testify during a Congressional hearing and lobby lawmakers on Capitol Hill for more cancer research funding.
Said Brozeit: "Anybody who has any interest in cancer research should have an interest in One Voice Against Cancer."