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CBS Uses Kennedy Diagnosis to Critique Government Cancer Funding

     It didn’t take long for the “CBS Evening News” to blast the government for funding cuts after the announcement that Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.


     “Evening News” began its series, “The War on Cancer: Where We Stand,” May 20 and took the federal government to task.


     “The news today that Sen. Ted Kennedy has cancer reminds us again how this disease can change our lives in an instant,” “Evening News” anchor Katie Couric said. “Nearly one in two men and more than one in three women in this country will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. And yet since 2004, federal funding for research into the four most common kinds of cancer – lung, colon, breast and prostate – has been cut by more than $100 million.”


     However, overall cancer funding has actually increased according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) 2007 Fact Book. The NCI is part of the National Institutes for Health.


     “The NCI budget has increased by $200.3 million – or 4.4% – since FY 2003. Cancer Centers, Specialized Centers, and R&D Contracts have experienced percentage increases greater than the total NCI growth since FY 2003.”


     However, Couric interviewed one cancer researcher that connected economic problems and the Iraq war with research budget cuts.


     “I think we’re at very high risk for losing some of our best and brightest young people,” Dr. David Nanus, co-chief oncologist at the Weill Cornell Medical Center, said. “It’s very disheartening. Between all the economic problems in the United States, the continuation of the Iraq war, the low levels of funding.”


     Couric compared the status of funding in the United States to that of foreign nations, including the United Kingdom, where the government takes the burden of the bulk of the nation’s health care under the National Health Service bureaucracy.


     “[S]till others are heading overseas where governments and companies in Asia and Europe are creating a brain-drain in this country,” Couric said. “Attracting young Americans like Duncan Odom who left MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] to go to Great Britain’s Cambridge University.”


     According to Couric, Odom has “has a staff of three and has secured financial backing to the tune of more than $1.2 million a year.”


     “The difference is that Cancer Research UK has core-funded me indefinitely which means that these are expenditures that I don’t have to think about,” Odom said.


     But even with all that funding, the cancer incidence rate in the United Kingdom has remained stagnant, according to Cancer Research UK, an organization dedicated to cancer research. In the U.K., 284,560 persons were diagnosed with cancer in 2004 (the last year it has cancer incidence statistics for) according to its Web site.


     “U.K. cancer incidence trends in the ten-year period 1995 to 2004 have remained fairly constant,” the organization’s Web site said. “There has been a slight decrease in men (by 1%) and a slight increase in women (by 3%).”