Originally created 09/25/01

Barnes names round of cancer researchers



ATLANTA - Georgia's fledgling cancer initiative got its first dose of "intellectual capital" Monday when Gov. Roy Barnes named the first 15 clinicians and researchers who will be working on the project.

Specialists from such renowned cancer centers as the Mayo Clinic and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center will be setting up shop at Medical College of Georgia, the University of Georgia, Savannah's Memorial Health University Medical Center and other health and medical research facilities across the state to look for ways to prevent and treat cancer.

They're the first of 150 eminent cancer specialists the new Georgia Cancer Coalition hopes to hire in the next five to seven years.

"These outstanding individuals will work together statewide to win the fight against this deadly disease," Mr. Barnes said as he introduced the 15 during a ceremony at the Capitol.

Mr. Barnes launched the cancer initiative more than a year ago, citing statistics showing Georgia among the states with the highest incidences of certain forms of cancer. He vowed to make Georgia a leading center for research, treatment and prevention of the disease, anchored by three world-class cancer centers to be located around the state.

Since then, Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital has been chosen as the site of the first center. Health officials in Augusta, Savannah and other communities are vying to be selected for the additional centers the coalition expects to open.

The first group of cancer specialists is bringing a wide range of skills to a variety of assignments, from hands-on clinical work to administrative expertise.

MCG has already received two of the eminent researchers: Dr. James A. Brown, a urologic oncologist who specializes in prostate, kidney and bladder cancers; and Dr. Thomas N.T. Wang, coming off a surgical-oncology fellowship at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, who specializes in pancreatic cancer.

Both received $300,000 grants to get their labs established at MCG, said MCG President Daniel W. Rahn. The recruiting began before the Cancer Coalition initiative, but the extra funding helped to land both scientists, Dr. Rahn said.

"It would have been harder," Dr. Rahn said. "Those extra funds really help enormously."

Landing one of a handful of top-tier cancer centers would also mean getting more of these researchers and the funding to help get them established. The governor gave no hint as to when the coalition would decide or whether Augusta would be in line for one, Dr. Rahn said. But the prospect of landing more top-notch researchers is something MCG is very interested in, Dr. Rahn said.

"We would like to receive as many as we can," he said.

The General Assembly already has made a major funding commitment in the initiative's early stages. Lawmakers poured $60 million into the effort during winter's session, including $4.8 million for the first 30 cancer specialists.

The money comes from the state's share of the national tobacco settlement.

Staff Writer Tom Corwin contributed to this article.

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