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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Tuesday, June 26, 2007
MGH doctor lobbies for childhood cancer research
By Elizabeth Cooney, Globe Correspondent
Dr. Howard Weinstein (left) has been caring for children with cancer and researching ways to treat them for 30 years, but he's never seen so many clinical trials stalled for want of funding.
That's why the chief of the center for pediatric hematology and oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital was on Capitol Hill this afternoon. About 300 people from across the country -- cancer doctors, parents of children who died of cancer and families with children who survived -- were all lobbying for passage of a bill called the Childhood Cancer Act of 2007.
"Twenty trials that are ready to be launched will not be activated in the next weeks to months because of the budget," he said in an interview. "It's such a frustrating time because there's an explosion of new drugs that we're really anxious to test in children, but we don't have the funding."
The National Cancer Institute provides about $28 million a year for studies of childhood cancer, but the field could use double that amount, Weinstein said. Four years of flat funding for the National Institutes of Health have meant real declines in the money available for research, after medical inflation is taken into account.
The bill asks for $150 million over five years to pay for studies organized by the Children's Oncology Group, a group of cancer centers around the country formed seven years ago to coordinate research. The bill would also support families and establish a national childhood cancer registry.
"Twelve thousand children a year are diagnosed with cancer," he said. "I think our job is to make sure every child in this country with cancer has the opportunity to be cured."