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Great Advancement in Battle Against Cancer

October 12, 2003

In "New Vigor in Cancer War" (editorial, Oct. 3) you note that the "war on cancer" is little closer to victory than it was when war on this disease was declared in 1971. I believe that statement is unequivocally incorrect.

The successes of our nation's research program since the signing of the National Cancer Act of 1971 have been nothing short of remarkable. A cancer diagnosis used to be a death sentence; today, far more people than ever before are surviving this disease and, with each passing year, cancer becomes a more manageable disease. The number of cancer survivors today in the U.S. -- nearly 10 million -- is more than triple the number of cancer survivors in this country in 1971.

This remarkable progress emboldened me to issue a challenge goal to myself, to my staff and to the cancer community at large: to eliminate suffering and death because of cancer by 2015.

You also quite correctly noted the importance of supporting research on cancer causes and prevention, but incorrectly suggested that this is not a priority of the National Cancer Institute. Understanding the causes of cancer and preventing cancer are major priorities at the NCI. Last year, for example, our budget for research on the causes of cancer, and for cancer prevention and control, $1.76 billion, accounted for more than 38% of our total budget, a 21% increase over the prior year.

Better understanding and prevention of cancer are two of our highest priorities this year as we pursue our challenge goal. It is currently estimated that one in two men and one in three women in this country will learn in their lifetimes that they have cancer. To them I say there is reason to be optimistic that you will not suffer, or die, as a result of this disease.

Andrew C. von

Eschenbach MD

Director, National Cancer,

Institute, Bethesda, Md.

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