Cancer Center Director Delivers Remarks at Cancer Briefing on Capitol Hill

Posted in News Release

WASHINGTON (Dec. 12, 2104) — Georgetown Lombard Comprehensive Cancer Center Director Louis M. Weiner, MD, participated in a Senate Cancer Coalition panel and briefing on Capitol Hill Dec. 10. Panel co-chairs Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Sen. Johnny Isakson hosted the event. The briefing was led by Harold Varmus, MD, director of the National Cancer Institute, and sponsored by One Voice Against Cancer Coalition.

Weiner delivered remarks about the progress being made in cancer research in support of the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) proposed “bypass” budget for fiscal year 2016. 

Other participants included Otis Brawley, MD, the American Cancer Society’s Chief Medical Officer and Danielle Leach of the St. Baldrick’s Childhood Cancer Foundation.

Below are Weiner’s remarks:
Good morning, and thank you for inviting me to speak before you today.

My name is Louis Weiner, and I am director of the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of the nation’s 41 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers.

I am also a medical oncologist who specializes in treating patients who have gastrointestinal cancers, and I run a laboratory that studies antibody based cancer immunotherapy.

I am here today to remind you of what we already know—cancer is bad. However, with your help, there is hope.

I’ll reiterate—cancer is very bad. By the end of this year, 585,000 Americans will die of cancer.

To provide you with some context, 3200 people die of cancer every two days – equivalent to the number of innocent people who tragically perished on 9 – 11, a very different type of horrific atrocity.

Cancer kills 3200 people every two days – and it does so every week, every month, every year.

In fact, during the 90 minutes of this hearing, about 100 people will die of this terrible set of diseases.

But as I stated earlier—there is hope. Another one million Americans, or nearly two thirds of all who are diagnosed, will be cured this year.

This is a vast improvement compared with 1971, when the National Cancer Act was signed and only half of all Americans with cancer could expect to be cured.

We have come a long way in 43 years. Without the sustaining resources invested by the American people in cancer research, it is likely that 800,000 people – in other words, half of people who will be diagnosed in 2014 – would have succumbed to their cancers.

In other words, this research investment has yielded more than 200,000 additional cures this year alone.

On behalf of our patients, all of us who struggle to beat cancer in the operating room, in the clinic, in the laboratory and at home, I thank you for this support.

We know that research cures cancer and its impact on the health and welfare of the American people has been incalculable.

That impact dwarfs many of the very valid benefits you have no doubt heard about before – benefits such as new business formation and continued American leadership on the world scientific stage through our cancer centers, universities and the pharmaceutical industry.

But will we have to wait another 43 years before we can save an additional 200,000 lives each year?

Dr. Varmus has briefed you on the many exciting advances that have led to improved outcomes for our patients and laid the groundwork for future advancements.

For example, as an immunotherapy researcher, it is thrilling to see that oncologists now have the tools to treat patients’ immune systems so that those immune systems can recognize and destroy cancers growing in the patients’ own bodies.

These tools are the result of painstaking, unconventional, imaginative and challenging research that took years of patient investment, even in the face of apparently disappointing results.

It is clear that without continued investment to sustain cancer research, the pace of discovery will slow and with it the progress that has transformed the lives of so many cancer survivors.

As director of a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center I experience increasing concern as our research enterprise is forced to shrink.

Regrettably, NCI funding, which is the lifeblood of this nation’s cancer research enterprise, has not kept pace with the costs of doing research, even as the opportunities to make transformative advances become increasingly attainable.

This persistent and growing funding gap has forced us to make Sophie’s choices – to put aside scientists and work that should be supported but cannot—all the while knowing that the wrong decisions could deprive us of advances that cloud the prospects for future generations.

Many people ask me, isn’t a lot of money already devoted to cancer research? There is, and I am grateful for it.

But the amount of research investment should be calibrated to the actual level of threat cancer poses to human life.