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Progress in fight against cancer

Despite the nation's significant investment in cancer research, the disease continues to claim the lives of more than a half-million Americans each year. A cure remains elusive, but federal tax dollars have helped produce a few important breakthroughs that promise to make treatment more precise and effective. Even in tough economic times, these investments in medical research should not be sacrificed.

About 120,000 Floridians are expected to be diagnosed with some form of cancer this year. In that same period nationally, almost 600,000 people are expected to die of cancer. Fighting cancer has long been a priority in Washington. Congress allocates billions of dollars each year to the National Cancer Institute, which plays a major role in funding research across the country. The organization, part of the National Institutes of Health, has seen federal funding increase over the past few years. In fiscal year 2010, about half of the institute's $5 billion budget was devoted to financing more than 5,000 research project grants.

The result, in part, has been a new class of promising treatment methods. Unveiled recently at a meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, they include drugs that poison cancer cells without harming healthy ones, drugs that allow the immune system to recognize and fight the buildup of cancer, and other new methods that make chemotherapy seem draconian by comparison. The latest innovations could signal a sea change in the way cancer is treated, to a place of greater precision and efficacy. In a signal of encouragement, the Food and Drug Administration recently announced a policy by which new breast cancer drugs can be moved to the market more quickly.

With so many lives claimed by cancer every year, the fight to cure it continues to require a coordinated national effort. The fact that such an effort has begun to yield more encouraging results should be a small source of comfort for anyone with a family member or friend who has suffered from the disease. Taxpayers should be encouraged that, in this area, their money is being well spent. And they should encourage Congress to keep up the fight.

Progress in fight against cancer 06/17/12 [Last modified: Sunday, June 17, 2012 4:30am]
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