Originally created 05/24/00

Governor announces initiative



ATLANTA - Gov. Roy Barnes unveiled an initiative Tuesday aimed at making Georgia a national leader in research, prevention and treatment of cancer.

With four medical schools, sev-eral research universities and the national headquarters of Centers for Disease Control and Preven-tion, and American Cancer Society, the state has the tools to move to the forefront in the battle against the deadly disease, Mr. Barnes told a group of state health officials, academics and leaders of the medical community at an organizational meeting.

"I don't think Georgia is making the contributions to cancer research and treatment that it could," he said. "Our resources are too scattered, our programs too fragmented and our successes too spread out. .ƒ.ƒ. Working together, we can do more than working alone."

A legislative study committee meeting in Augusta last year recommended that Augusta pursue a National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center, which would attract increased research funding and provide an expanded level of care. There is no NCI-designated center in either Georgia or South Carolina.

Dr. Francis J. Tedesco, president of Medical College of Georgia, said MCG would be a good candidate for one of the satellite centers mentioned in the initiative.

"We have a very strong prevention institute already established and our Institute of Molecular Medicine and Genetics," he said. "Bringing all these resources together would be great for the state."

Hamilton Jordan, who served as chief of staff to President Carter and has been stricken by cancer three times, outlined the challenges faced by the new effort, which Mr. Barnes has dubbed the Georgia Cancer Initiative.

Georgia has the highest rate of prostate cancer in the country, while rates of breast, colon and lung cancer are above the national average, said Mr. Jordan, author of the just-published best-selling account of his struggles No Such Thing as a Bad Day.

"We're the 10th-largest state in the country but only the 27th in federal research dollars for cancer," he said.

Renay Blumenthal, the governor's policy director, asked members of the group attending Tuesday's session to develop proposals focusing on the following areas:

Research, funded through grants, based on data gleaned from a bank of blood, body fluid and tissue samples from Georgia cancer patients.

Outreach and prevention, through education programs stressing the importance of screening for early detection of cancer.

Medical education and training programs for the next generation of researchers and care-givers.

The initiative also visualizes a major cancer center in Atlanta where patients could receive state-of-the-art screening and, if necessary, treatment. Satellite offices located throughout the state would be electronically linked to the center.

Under an admittedly tight timetable, proposals are due back to the governor's office by June 19. Mr. Barnes expects to release a draft plan Aug. 1 and announce the final version of the initiative Sept. 22.

Reach Dave Williams at (404) 589-8424 or mnews@mindspring.com.