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Oklahoma Hospitals, Universities Hope For Piece Of Cancer 'Moonshot' Funding

Dec 30, 2016

Three weeks ago President Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act, which makes $6.3 billion available for prevention, research, and the treatment of cancer.

That includes about $1.8 billion over the next decade for the so-called cancer "moonshot" spearheaded by Vice President Joe Biden, and Oklahoma scientists could easily compete for that money, The Journal Record’s Sarah Terry-Cobo reports:

The money will advance studies on cancer and treatment of opioid addiction and overdoses. [University of Oklahoma College of Public Health Dean Gary] Raskob said Oklahoma researchers at the Health Sciences Center, the Stephenson Cancer Center and other institutions could easily compete for that money.

But the billions-per-year more dedicated to advancing cancer treatment isn’t that much, when adjusted for inflation, Raskob said. About $1 billion is dedicated to substance abuse treatment.

Raskob praised Congress and the President for bipartisan support for the bill, but he was cautious about expectations.

The initiative won’t create a silver-bullet-type cure for cancer. Preventing deadly diseases by cutting tobacco use is one proven, cost-effective measure.

“We can eliminate 85 percent of lung cancer (cases) if we eliminated smoking,” Raskob said. “The best way to address that is to raise the price of cigarettes and reduce smoking rates. That is very possible in Oklahoma.”

About 23.3 percent of state residents smoke, according to 2013 statistics from the Oklahoma State Department of Health. That’s higher than the national average from the same year, about 19.6 percent.

Oklahoma’s cancer death rates were slightly higher than the national average, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2013 study. About 186 Oklahomans per 100,000 state residents died from the disease, compared to 163 deaths per 100,000 people nationwide. That equates to 8,039 deaths in Oklahoma in 2013. 

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