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A Wise investment in the nation’s health

By Thomas Sellers, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Scientists and medical researchers know that the tangible rewards of decades of government investment in solving major health problems is within our grasp, but the promise deserves recognition in the Republican presidential candidate debates.

In 2005, the draft sequence of the human genome was unraveled by an international collaboration at a cost of roughly $5 billion. Today, advances in technology have brought the costs down 5,000-fold to only $1,000. The discoveries of human disease enabled by these advances are simply breathtaking, and we are just now seeing that knowledge being transformed into wisdom, and more importantly, new treatments for dreaded diseases like cancer that will affect 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women in this country.

To realize this promise and potential requires research, yet sadly the dollars allocated to the National Institutes of Health are decreasing. Given the rising cost of health care, now more than ever we need to continue to invest in medical research to find new ways of managing disease in more effective and efficient ways.

Investment in medical research is also an investment in our region. At Moffitt Cancer Center, we are unraveling the myriad changes that underlie the transformation of a normal cell into a cancerous one. It’s clear that even cancers that look the same under the microscope can be very different entities that require different treatment strategies. Thus, we are now poised for the first time ever to pursue the goal of cancer therapy that is based on the right drug, for the right patient, at the right time – the first time.

Moffitt is ready to lead the nation in these efforts because of the investment by the state, Hillsborough County and city of Tampa in Total Cancer CareTM, a revolutionary approach to personalized medicine. The time is now, but dramatic advances in the prevention and cure of cancer will not happen without funding from the National Institutes of Health. Beyond the important goal of beating cancer, our successes bring prestige to our region, new jobs and new industries.

The medical science community, and indeed the public at large, need to hear and understand the plans of government leaders, especially the presidential candidates, who will decide whether this great nation will capitalize on the incredible discoveries made so far by investing in medical science research.

Thomas A. Sellers, Ph.D., M.P.H. is executive vice president and director of the Moffitt Research Institute.

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