The Best Cancer Treatment

By Carl-Wilhelm Vogel
Wednesday - March 15, 2006
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Cancer Research Center staff (from left): Kerry Kakazu, Anette Jones, Patricia Corrales, Kevin Cassel, Patricia Lorenzo and Carl-WilhelmVogel
Cancer Research Center staff (from left): Kerry
Kakazu, Anette Jones, Patricia Corrales, Kevin
Cassel, Patricia Lorenzo and Carl-WilhelmVogel

When cancer strikes a loved one, most people’s first reaction is that nothing less than the best treatment will do.

For those who can afford it (and many who cannot), this means expensive and disruptive travel for the patient and family to Mainland cancer centers where the newest treatments and clinical trials are available.

It should not have to be that way. In Hawaii, we already have one of the leading cancer research centers - one of only 61 elite National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers in the country.

We should - and can - also have a leading treatment center. That is what all of us at the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii, the University of Hawaii, the nonprofit Friends of the Cancer Research Center, and many civic leaders are working to create.

But competition for cancer funding is intense. If our Cancer Research Center does not expand to include treatment, we will miss the chance for the higher NCI “comprehensive” cancer center designation. We even risk losing the NCI credential to other cancer centers with better facilities and designated funding sources.

Since 1979, the center has been in a fine facility on Lauhala Street. But we have outgrown it, both for research and for our desire to reach out to our community. With our people aging, we expect Hawaii’s cancer cases to double in the next 25 years.

Plans are well under way for an expanded cancer research center in Kakaako, next to the new UH medical school.

One exciting feature of the new center will be a modern out-patient clinic with physicians’ offices to provide direct patient services, and an expanded selection of clinical trials including early phase studies. Satellite facilities in partnership with Neighbor Island hospitals will also extend services beyond Oahu.

Our new integrated facility will allow translational research, the most successful care model now in practice. This involves physician-scientists transferring a free flow of information and new treatments from the lab to the patient’s bedside and back.

When the best cancer care is available to patients - rich and poor - right here, international visitors coming to the U.S. for cancer treatment will find Hawaii on the list of leading cancer centers in the country.

How can we build a new cancer center and meet expanded operating expenses? Federal funds and other donations are part of the picture. And the state Legislature can help right now.

Bills being heard this session would gradually increase the tax on all cigarette sales. Half the revenues would come to the Cancer Research Center, with the balance going to health promotion and disease prevention efforts by the state Department of Health and the Hawaii Tobacco Prevention and Control Trust Fund.

Hawaii provides a natural laboratory and is uniquely suited for studying cancer in people of Asian and Pacific Island ancestry. For this and many other reasons, Hawaii needs and deserves the best cancer research and treatment center we can have.

Next Week: Mike Myer, CEO of CTA Computers

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