Originally created 03/03/03

State's cancer fight will begin at Grady



ATLANTA - At the new Grady Cancer Center, large windows bring in natural light for chemotherapy patients who must sit long hours for treatment. A garden with a bubbling fountain relieves stress and anxiety. Advanced imaging machines can detect new cancer cases.

Today's opening of the $31.7 million center represents the first in an effort by the Georgia Cancer Coalition to create a statewide network for cancer research and treatment. The center includes expertise from Emory University's Winship Cancer Institute and Morehouse School of Medicine.

"This will be a place where a lot of research can take place," said Philip Lamson, the executive director of the center. "The lessons learned here can spread throughout the state."

The center will focus on the most common Georgia cancers - breast, cervical, prostate, lung and colorectal. The Avon Foundation gave $3.3 million for breast and cervical cancer research and education.

The center boasts a digital mammography system, advanced scanning equipment and 10 biotech labs for research.

Much of the center's research efforts will focus on cancer disparities among races and ways to lower the risk of cancer deaths and to improve the quality of treatment.

Many cancers affect a higher proportion of blacks than whites, and blacks and rural whites in Georgia fare worse than they do nationwide, said Dr. Otis Brawley, the medical director of the center.

One of the center's first projects will be an educational effort to teach breast cancer patients and family members about the illness. The center will see whether the effort helps patients better comply with therapy regimens. Other projects include having cancer survivors help newly diagnosed cancer patients through the medical system.

The center will give patients access to clinical trials that offer the latest in care, said Linda Edwards, the senior vice president of cancer control for the American Cancer Society. Grady's location will particularly help address underserved groups in Fulton and DeKalb counties, where there are high incidences of cancer, she said.

"I think this is a comprehensive approach to dealing with cancer and will be beneficial to the citizens of Georgia," Ms. Edwards said.

The cancer coalition is a $1 billion, 10-year effort launched in spring 2000 by then-Gov. Roy Barnes. The coalition works to provide early detection and cancer prevention, state-of-the-art care for Georgians, world-class cancer research and education for cancer-care providers.

Other recent coalition-supported efforts have included proposals by Emory in Atlanta and the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta to win National Cancer Institute cancer center designation to make sure Georgia cancer patients don't have to leave the state to receive cutting-edge treatment.