January 18, 2012
Those of us working in policy and advocacy understand that coalitions organized around specific issues can be an effective way of leveraging diverse expertise and resources to impact an issue. Prevent Cancer works with multiple coalitions, and has led and participated in efforts as diverse as raising awareness about colorectal cancer and access to screening coverage, increasing funding for medical research, and ensuring quality health care for all individuals.
Since 2001, Prevent Cancer Foundation has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR). This coalition consists of over 100 universities, hospitals, provider organizations, professional societies, and nationally-recognized patient groups with an interest in advancing the field of regenerative medicine. For the past two years, I had the honor of working with the members and Board of Directors of CAMR in the office of President.
In recent years, the field has seen both advancement and setbacks related to policy. Significant progress has been made in implementing the guidelines governing funding of embryonic stem cell research as directed by President Barack Obama’s 2009 Executive Order that the CAMR community so diligently advocated for. In the last fiscal year the National Institutes of Health designated over $164 million in funding for embryonic stem cell research. The first three human clinical trials involving therapies derived from embryonic stem cells were approved by the FDA and men and women suffering from both paralysis and eye disease received these new therapies to test them for safety. The field has moved rapidly since the discovery of a method to derive pluripotent cells from human embryos and grow them in a lab at the University of Wisconsin in 1998.
We’ve continued to work with Congress to educate new elected officials about the promise of the field for developing therapies or understanding diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimers, paralysis, diabetes, macular degeneration or multiple sclerosis. Legislation has been introduced to codify the President’s Executive Order, and at the state level we’ve successfully defended efforts to advance regenerative medicine through state law, ballot initiatives and constitutional amendments.
Most significantly in this two year period is the ongoing court challenge to the NIH guidelines. In August 2010 a judge in the DC Circuit Court issued an injunction stopping all Federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. The Department of Justice successfully appealed and funding is still flowing. With the assistance of pro bono legal support from the firm of Arnold and Porter, CAMR impacted this decision through an amicus brief. We have since prevailed in additional decisions in support of the NIH guidelines but face another round of appeals.
Prevent Cancer looks forward to continuing our efforts to ensure that regenerative medicine moves forward as a member of the CAMR Board of Directors. The field of regenerative medicine holds enormous potential in cancer prevention, research and therapies. It is essential that we play a role in advancing this field through policy and alongside our CAMR partners.