Thursday, December 6, 2012

Message to Senators Jane Nelson and Jim Keffer

To Senators Jane Nelson and Jim Keffer,

To our representatives,

The Coalition for the Reversal of Breast Cancer Mortality in African American Women (CRBCM), an organization based in El Paso TX, has for mission to fight for the reduction in Breast Cancer Mortality in Minority populations in general, with some focus in death of African American Women from the disease.
Despite the low incidence of breast cancer compared to that in the white race, the mortality from Breast cancer is 40 to 50% higher in minority populations compared to what it should be, based on the low incidence.  This incidence-mortality Paradox is due to low screening rates by mammography, late stage of disease at diagnosis, and excessive amount of triple negative Breast cancer, a poor non treatable histology.

Of the estimated  6,000  African American women who have or will die of Breast cancer in the United stated this year, our efforts in prevention and treatment, if effective, could save up to 3,000 of these women yearly, based on current estimates.  In El Paso, there will be about 2,600 new cases of cancer in general this year.  350 will be Breast Cancers of which 90 will perish from the disease.  We could save up to 45 women per the above estimates yearly in El Paso alone. Our protocol for improved prevention, screening and more  efficient treatment of breast cancer in African American and Hispanic women would have a huge impact at the National level, but also in all other countries where these women suffer from that Breast cancer paradox marked by low incidence with high mortality.

Dear Senators,

Your actions and initiatives will save real lives yearly. So it is with dismay that we see CPRIT funds being mismanaged while people are dying.  Your strong stance on CPRIT is being applauded in our communities.  I should however warn you that the nervousness at CPRIT has a price. And small independent companies or operations that focus on cancer may miss out completely on the opportunity as CPRIT is shifting squarely into becoming an exclusive University funding organization.  Universities know this and have started abusing the system as it is now apparent.  Indeed, there is a perception at CPRIT that awarding grants to universities is less questionable in the mind of the public, and somehow, Universities and big Biotech companies are more likely to find the cure. If this was true in your mind, you could have called CPRIT "Texas University Funding Source",  but you did not. You felt this was a race to the cure.  And in a race, remember, the underdogs can sometimes be the first to the finishing line if given a chance.  So you did not restrict the grants to universities and biotech companies.  CPRIT seems to do this for you and in effect reducing the foot print of the law.

If your initial conception of the law leading to CPRIT was to boost the economy and meet disparity in minority involvement in the program, then the actual awarding process of recurrently funding the same universities over and over again is only making them richer, without meeting these important end points.  CPRIT would have a much larger foot print if its leadership allowed it to truly invest in services for prevention, screening and cancer care in low income communities. The positive impact would be immediate on common fellows living today, and it would have a larger reach as it would relate to overall improved health status of communities and intensive job creation.

Also, it is our understanding that CPRIT wanted  to come back to the legislature to convey our message regarding the need to increase the proportion of funds allocated to cancer prevention. Under current duress and public criticism, this need will probably not be brought to your attention and prevention is quietly being pushed to the wayside, while the tax dollar is increasingly being used for incubator and commercialization programs. Tertiary prevention programs which include lucrative survivorship centers and programs still have not been developed in satisfactory numbers to satisfy the urgent needs in Texas; such programs would be just as financially viable as the commercialization of new drugs and devices and generate financial revenue for the long term - cancer survivors are every year more numerous, but their needs are being ignored.  Remember, services that could be developed under this type of program, are generally reimbursed by the federal government.  When fully deployed, it is true that survivorship programs are much more secure revenue generating endeavors than any risky incubator or Biotech start-up company with random and potentially short-lived success.

We, at CRBCM, believe in a cure to cancer. Cure is achievable by causing cancer cell death.  And cell death can only be effective following organized natural processes built-in within the cell by nature, leading to coordinated Apoptosis.   We believe that there are ways to harness these pathways or cellular metabolic events to maximize cancer cell death.  What we need now is proof of concept work in laboratories followed by translation to patients in our clinic.   We can't achieve this if we are not allowed to significantly participate.  Your help and vision is leading us to the cure, help put aside abuse of power and politics. I agree with you that the cause is much too important to play politics.

The CRBCM has so far submitted 4 research, prevention and survivorship projects to CPRIT. The first one has been rejected not because of its content.  But the reviewers insist they do not know the principal investigator or the CRBCM to be certain that we could achieve what we claim.   Suffice is to say that I remember participating at the annual American College of physician against John Hopkins residents in Baltimore, that year my presentation and abstract received the first place.  I have been doing mostly clinical work. I feel it is time at my age to return to research with sixteen years of sound clinical cancer care experience and background.  At CPRIT, they insist that we be affiliated with some University professor to show we are "supervised".  This is ignoring that professors  have contracts with our competitors for grants. At least 2 El Paso university professors flatly turned our request to collaborate with the CRBCM down because of the obvious conflict it would cause them.

The CRBCM is asking that during your conversation with CPRIT leadership you convey our concerns about the disparity in grant attribution in order to boost the foot print of your initiative and boost the economy in remote Cities such as El Paso.  It is after all the 6th largest City in Texas, yet having to date received less than one percent of CPRIT funds for cancer prevention, research and intervention.  The race for the cure is on.  Let the best win.  Skewing the fight does not assure that the underdogs will fail.  This is a "just cause" request.  Your attention to these issues is called for.

Sincerely yours

Mutombo Kankonde, M.D., M.P.H.
El Paso, Texas
December 6th, 2012.
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