Wednesday, September 26

Tax helps fund UC breast cancer research


By Donna Wong

Daily Bruin Senior Staff

Contrary to what its critics have said, cigarette smoking may
actually be good for some people’s health.

Since the beginning of this year, cigarette smokers in the state
of California have been paying an extra 2 cents per pack to fund
breast cancer research and early detection services.

Under Assemblywoman Barbara Friedman’s Breast Cancer Act of
1993, the state created a breast cancer fund, that supports a
research program run by the University of California.

Projecting an annual revenue of $38 million for research and
low-cost early detection services, the act addresses the
continually rising one-in-eight incidence rate of breast cancer
among the general female population.

"She felt that it was a public disaster that could no longer be
ignored," said John Young, Friedman’s chief of staff. "There’s a
real sense of a moral imperative."

Under the new research program, the UC established a 16- member
Breast Cancer Research Council to advise the program about the
types of research they will fund.

Including representatives from the private sector such as breast
cancer survivors, in addition to researchers, the council has yet
to finalize their policy. It will release the grant information by
the end of this year, said Patricia Ganz, a UCLA medical professor
and council member.

One issue definitely on the council’s agenda is researching a
replacement for mammography, Currently, the procedure has a 10 to
40 percent failure rate in detecting breast cancer in young women,
Young said.

The program is headed by interim director Charles Gruder, who is
also the director of the UC Tobacco-Related Disease Research
Program.

"Hopefully, we’ll be able to fund research that is not being
funded by other agencies – such as innovative but high risk
research – (even though) it may not yield a significant finding,"
Gruder said.

Researchers would also like to find a cause of breast cancer
through the program, Gruder added.

Scientists have already found a gene that causes breast cancer
in five percent of those diagnosed, however, the other 95 percent
diagnosed don’t show the gene, said Sherry Goldman, a nurse
practitioner at the UCLA Breast Center.

Through the state’s program, there will be many opportunities
for collaboration between institutions and the private sector, Ganz
said.

Areas of research the program will cover will be the impact of
oral contraceptives, alcohol, diet and the effectiveness of a drug
called tamoxifen developed from the needles of the pacific Yew
tree.

In California last year, 20,000 women learned they had the
disease and 5,000 died, according to estimates by the American
Cancer Society.

However, with new technology and findings, researchers can help
women detect the cancer earlier and more easily combat the disease,
the most common form of cancer in women, Young said.

"I don’t think there is a woman alive who isn’t concerned about
breast cancer," Friedman said. "This program gives us protection
from this dreaded disease."

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