There is some good news concerning cancer in the United States. According to the Annual Report on the Status of Cancer, death rates are dropping.
In 1971, President Nixon issued a directive that impacts Nebraska today: The War on Cancer.
One of the fronts in that war is here in Omaha, at the Eppley Cancer Center. There are only 61 designated centers in the nation and Eppley is one of them.
Research here and at the other centers around the country has made a huge impact in the cancer survival rate.
Dr. Ken Cowan, director of the Eppley Cancer Center, says, "In fact today there are over 10 million Americans alive as cancer survivors. That's three times the number of survivors that there were in 1971 when the war on cancer started."
Dr. Cowan came to Omaha in 1999 as the new director of the Eppley Cancer Center. The center had momentum then and even more now.
The doctor says, "We've recruited over 60 new faculty in the cancer Center and our research funding has more than tripled in the last seven years and currently our researchers bring in over $16 million a year to support their cancer research activities here in Nebraska."
The Lied Transplant Center is one of the facilities that serve as a draw for those researchers. A great deal of research takes place at the Durham Research Center which was built two years ago. Construction on an identical building began about two months ago and four more research towers are planned over the next four years.
UNMC's work on lymphoma illustrates the new direction in treating cancer, using a complex genetic system to determine a specific course of treatment for each patient.
Dr. Cowen says, "We're now entering an era where the technology allows us to look at all of the genetic changes that occur in that cancer cell from that particular patient to cause that particular tumor which now enables us in the future to tailor the therapy and make it more personal for each individual person."
A rally in Washington D.C. earlier this month highlights a concern for Eppley and the other cancer centers around the country. Funding was cut last year and another $40 million could be cut this year.
Dr. Cowan says, "In the interim we have to find ways to support the researchers we already have, so philanthropy is really important so that we can retain our very best faculty here in the State of Nebraska and make sure that the momentum for cancer research stays as high as possible."
Those cuts in funding underscore the importance of a big event coming to Omaha in October. Tom Brokaw will be here to speak at the Ambassadors of Hope Dinner. The date is Friday night, October 13th at the Qwest Center. Click here for additional details.