By Joel Hall
Thanks to the recent signing of Senate Bill 201 by Gov. Sonny Perdue, the Georgia Cancer Coalition has been given more tools to fight the spread of cancer throughout the state.
The bill, co-sponsored by State Sen. Gail Buckner (D-Morrow), widens the scope of the Georgia Cancer Research Fund by allowing the money to be used to fund any, and all, cancer research.
The Georgia Cancer Research Fund, set up in 2000 through the Georgia Department of Revenue, allows people to donate to cancer research by checking off a box on their state income tax return. Until the bill was signed last month, however, money in the fund could only be used to address breast, ovarian and prostate cancer.
Buckner, who sponsored the original legislation for the fund, said the expanded usage of the money will benefit everyone.
"Most every Georgia family has been impacted in some way by cancer," she said. "This allows the cancer coalition the flexibility to apply that money to where they feel it is needed. This is a very progressive move."
Bill Todd, CEO of the Georgia Cancer Coalition, said the restriction hurt efforts to secure funding that could be used to treat other prevalent forms of cancer, particularly in children.
"It's been a successful program, there's no question about that," Todd said. However, "the number of citizens who want to participate in this is artificially constrained by that limitation. There is a very robust advocacy community in regards to addressing childhood cancer. None of those three areas [breast, ovarian, or prostate cancer] are relevant to children."
Todd said that until now, the fund has generated about $300,000 a year - money which is portioned out in grants and matched dollar-to-dollar by hospitals and academic institutions seeking to attract leading cancer researchers to the state.
He said he believes with the new legislation signed into law, the fund will soon begin collecting $500,000 a year.
Amy Moore, manager of research programs for the Georgia Cancer Coalition, said that since 2000, the fund has received $2.5 million in donations. She said the new legislation may give the state more money to research ways to diagnose and treat pediatric brain tumors more effectively.
"One success story [of the new legislation] is the Ian's Friends Foundation," Moore said. "This particular agency is giving money for pediatric brain-cancer research. The reason that is significant is because the number one cause of death in children with cancer is through brain tumors.
"They are going to try to develop nano-scale diagnostics, so they can more accurately define the tumor margins," Moore said. "You can more narrowly define the area, instead of attacking healthy tissue. That will lead to better treatment and, eventually, better outcomes."
Buckner believes the legislation will allow Georgia to attack cancer more aggressively.
"It would be wonderful to make cancer a thing of the past," she said. "I feel like if we can band together, we can lick this thing."