US activists demand a say in the government's modus operandi in using funds for breast cancer research
A GROUP of 270 fiery advocates forming
the National Breast Cancer Coalition,
has been persistently and successfully
lobbying with the government to
increase federal funds on cancer
research. Fran Visco, a breast cancer
survivor in the us leads this Coalition.
The government was spending around
us $90 million on breast cancer research
in 1991, when the Coalition came into
being, Now it doles out us $475 million.
The latest stand taken by Visco and her
fellow activists is that they should also
play a role in deciding how these funds
should be spent. "What we are trying to
form is a group of advocates who can
work side by side with scientists in
charting the course of breast cancer
research," declares Visco.
Supported by Kay Dickersin, a biologist from the University of Maryland, Visco has formulated the project LEAD (Leadership Education and Advocacy Development) which comprises workshops. Visco is confident that her trainees would soon be ready to join local boards which review research on patients, plan committees, and peerreview study sections of the National Institute of Health.
Richard Klausner, director, National Cancer institute, idmits that his parteys with the Coalition have been "tremendously productive". But he is still sceptical about a blanket policy prescribing advocates' involvement in peer-rcview and other decision-making processes.
"It does not necessarily make sense to assign an advocate for every disease to every study section that may match his or her area of interest. Science does not neatly divide up that way," he counters. Sydney Salmon, director, Arizona Cancer Centre in Tucson, agrees. "The most interesting and innovative ideas that have revolutionised biomedical research, have by and large come from scientists," he argues, "and not from bureaucrats - be they from governmerit or advocate groups."
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