PITTSBURGH, November 16, 1998 — The announced settlement between the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and tobacco companies today could mean a tremendous boost to cancer research and the health of residents in this state. If state leaders back a plan put forth by this state’s top cancer centers, the health and well-being of thousands of Pennsylvanians could be improved enormously, according to a coalition of Commonwealth medical institutions.
The University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) is joining forces with Fox Chase Cancer Center, Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University, University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center, Temple Cancer Center, Penn State Geisinger Health System Cancer Center and Wistar Institute to propose that 25 percent of the tobacco settlement be set aside to support the excellent cancer research these centers are conducting.
"Clinical and basic science researchers at UPCI and at these other centers have made remarkable contributions to understanding the biological basis of cancer. Moreover, they have advanced the prevention, detection and treatment of a disease that, unfortunately, will be diagnosed in more than 700,000 Pennsylvanians over the next 10 years," remarked Ronald B. Herberman, M.D., director of the UPCI and associate vice chancellor for research, Health Sciences, University of Pittsburgh. "With additional resources from this settlement, our research could expand significantly to give residents from western Pennsylvania and elsewhere new and better treatments," he added.
Such an investment in Pennsylvania will undoubtedly ease the burden of cancer, both personally and economically, while building the Commonwealth’s strength in biomedical research, according to UPCI and the other centers.
The institutions propose that the money be distributed according to the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) well-established review process, with allocations made according to the total value of NCI research grants held by these institutions.
From 1986 to 1995, Pennsylvania’s aging population has experienced a 20 percent increase in lung cancer cases. Worse still, both the incidence of and mortality from lung cancer in women are rising alarmingly, even after adjusting for age, according to a Pennsylvania Cancer Registry publication. Tobacco also contributes to many other types of cancer, including bladder, kidney, pancreas, oral, esophageall and head and neck cancers.
"The personal suffering of cancer patients and their families is impossible to measure," added Dr. Herberman. "Patients also face enormous financial burdens. They and their families suffer economic losses, including reduced earnings and medical care costs."
Other states have recognized the importance of using funds from a tobacco settlement to build on current cancer research capabilities. Settlements in both Texas and Florida, which provided significant support for their cancer centers, proved to minimize administrative costs and maximize their investment in cancer research. These states also recognized the economic importance of strengthening their biomedical research programs.
UPCI is the only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in western Pennsylvania and one of 35 nationwide. It has in excess of $23 million of NCI funding and is ranked among the top NCI-funded cancer centers in the country.
UPCI achieved NCI status in record time, soon after its establishment in 1985. Since then, the Institute has been committed to developing new and effective approaches to cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care. UPCI is an international leader in translational research, the conversion of laboratory findings into clinical applications. Professionals at UPCI use a wide range of modern technologies and facilities to help each patient receive individualized, comprehensive care. Ongoing studies at UPCI lay the foundation for future diagnostic methods and treatments that often become employed worldwide.