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The American Cancer Society Is Threatening the National Cancer Program, Warn Samuel S. Epstein, M.D. and Quentin D. Young, M.D.

CHICAGO, June 12/PRNewswire/ — The following was released by Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition and Quentin Young, M.D., Chairman of the Health and Medicine Policy Research Group and past President of the American Public Health Association.

Operating behind closed doors and with powerful political connections, Dr. Samuel Epstein, charges the American Cancer Society (ACS) with forging a questionably legal alliance with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in attempts to hijack the National Cancer Program. The ACS is also charged with virtual neglect of cancer prevention.

Dr. Quentin Young, warns: "The ACS political agenda reveals a pattern of self interest, conflicts of interest, lack of accountability and non-transparency to all of which the media have responded with deafening silence".

Among their concerns:

  • The National Cancer Act, the cornerstone of the National Cancer Institute's (NCI) war on cancer, is under powerful attack by the ACS, the world's largest non-religious "charity". The plan was hatched in September 1998 when, meeting behind closed doors, the ACS created a "National Dialogue on Cancer" (NDC), co-chaired by former President Bush and Barbara Bush, with representatives from the CDC, the giant cancer drug industry, and Collaborating Partners from survivor advocacy groups. The NDC leadership then unilaterally spun off a National Cancer Legislative Committee, co-chaired by Dr. John Seffrin, CEO of the ACS and Dr. Vincent DeVita, Director of the Yale Cancer Center and former NCI Director, to advise Congress on re-writing the National Cancer Act.
  • The relationships between the ACS, NDC and its Legislative Committee raise questions on conflicts of interest. John Durant, former executive president of the American Society for Clinical Oncology, charged: "It has always seemed to me that this was an issue of control by the ACS over the cancer agenda--. They are protecting their own fundraising capacity" from competition by survivor groups. The leading U.S. charity watchdog, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, further concluded, "The ACS is more interested in accumulating wealth than saving lives".
  • The ACS-CDC relationship is focused on diverting political emphasis and funds away from NCI's peer-reviewed scientific research to CDC's community programs, which center on community screening, behavioral intervention, and tobacco cessation rather than prevention.
  • There are major concerns on interlocking ACS-CDC interests. CDC has improperly funded ACS with a $3 million sole source four-year cooperative agreement. In turn, ACS has made strong efforts to upgrade CDC's role in the National Cancer Program, increase appropriations for CDC's non-peer reviewed programs, and facilitate its access to tobacco litigation money.
  • The ACS priority for tobacco cessation programs is inconsistent with its strong ties to the industry. Shandwick International, representing R.J. Reynolds, and Edelman, representing Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company, have been major PR firms for the NDC and its Legislative Committee.
  • ACS has made questionably legal contributions to Democratic and Republican Governors' Associations. "We wanted to look like players and be players", ACS explained.
  • DeVita, the Legislative Committee co-chair, is also chairman of the Medical Advisory Board of CancerSource.com, a website launched by Jones & Bartlett which publishes the ACS Consumer's Guide to Cancer Drugs; three other members of the Committee also serve on the board. DeVita thus appears to be developing his business interests in a publicly-funded forum.
  • The ACS has a longstanding track record of indifference and even hostility to cancer prevention. This is particularly disturbing in view of the escalating incidence of cancer now striking one in two men and one in three women in their lifetimes. Recent examples include issuing a joint statement with the Chlorine Institute justifying the continued global use of persistent organochlorine pesticides, and also supporting the industry in trivializing dietary pesticide residues as avoidable risks of childhood cancer. ACS policies are further exemplified by allocating under 0.1 percent of its $700 million annual budget to environmental and occupational causes of cancer.

These considerations clearly disqualify the ACS from any leadership role in the National Cancer Program. The public should be encouraged to redirect funding away from the ACS to cancer prevention advocacy groups. ACS conduct, particularly its political lobbying and relationship to CDC, should be investigated by Congressional Appropriations and Oversight committees. These committees should also recommend that the National Cancer Program direct the highest priority to cancer prevention.

Contacts: Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition and emeritus professor Environmental and Occupational Medicine, University of Illinois School of Public Health, Chicago, 312-996-2297, fax 312-996-1374, or epstein@uic.edu, Web site:http://www.preventcancer.com;Quentin D. Young, M.D., Chairman of the Health and Medicine Policy Research Group, Chicago, 312-922-8057, or email info@hmprg.org


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