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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Monday, August 27, 2007
Dana-Farber leader welcomes presidential cancer plans
By Elizabeth Cooney, Globe Correspondent
A prominent Boston cancer researcher is encouraged that, for the first time in recent memory, cancer is taking center stage in a presidential campaign.
"It seems to me that it is a good thing for sure that this is part of the political debate," Dr. Eric Winer, director of the breast oncology center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, said in an interview. "We certainly want cancer to be in the forefront of what the candidates and what Americans are thinking about."
Today Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and John Edwards presented their ideas at a forum in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, convened by cyclist and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong. His LIVESTRONG Foundation invited presidential hopefuls to explain what they would do to combat the disease that kills 600,000 Americans a year. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback and Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee also agreed to speak at the two-day event.
Edwards's wife, Elizabeth, has breast cancer and has said she will probably die of the disease. Her illness has influenced his thinking, he told the Associated Press.
His plan promises more money for research and more support for cancer survivors and their caregivers, according to material supplied by his campaign. He also advocates monitoring chemical and environmental risks while promoting better diet, more exercise and smoking cessation.
Clinton's goals urge better access to health care, doubling the federal research budget, preventing disease through healthier lifestyles and increased screening, and reducing racial and ethnic disparities in care. Her plan would devote funds to comprehensive care for cancer patients and require insurance companies to pay for preventive measures such as mammograms, colorectal screening and HPV vaccination.
Without parsing each candidate's plan, Winer said the need for increased cancer research, some form of universal health coverage and a commitment to fight cancer are all critical.
"What we need is funding that has the potential to decrease the number of Americans and people around the world who die from cancer," he said. "We need a national commitment to fixing the cancer problem and this goes beyond just dollars for research and for care. My hope is that cancer would serve as a model for other diseases."