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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 6, 2001
President Names Director of National Cancer Institute
Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building
3:48 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks you all very much, and welcome to the White House. Today our nation is in a war to defend our way of life. But we've been engaged in a war to defend our quality of life for many decades. The war on cancer has been a top priority of medical and research communities, and it's a top priority of this administration.
As we stand on the brink of amazing breakthroughs in cancer research, breakthroughs that will lead to new cancer therapies and, hopefully, to cancer cures, I'm pleased to introduce the man who will lead the National Cancer Institute in its war on cancer, Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach. (Applause.)
I want to welcome Andy's family. Thank you all for coming. I want to thank my friend, Tommy Thompson, for doing such a fine job as the Secretary of Health and Human Services. (Applause.) Another member of my Cabinet is here, the Director of Homeland Security, Governor Tom Ridge. Thank you for coming. (Applause.) And I've got to recognize my parents' old Congressman, Bill Archer, from Houston. Thank you for coming. (Applause.) Tell them hello back home.
Thirty years ago, this month, President Richard Nixon signed into law legislation authorizing the director of the National Cancer Institute to develop an expanded, intensified and coordinated cancer research program. The Cancer Progress Report of 2001 was released earlier this week, and it contains good news.
We've made substantial progress in the war on cancer over the past three decades. Advances in science to prevent, detect and treat cancer have directly contributed to an overall reduction in both new cancer cases and cancer death rates. The National Cancer Institute has provided the funding and the expertise to make money of these advances possible -- many of these advances possible.
The NCI has funded billions of dollars in research, exploring hundreds of methods to combat cancer. We know that early detection often makes the difference between life and death. So NCI-funded scientists are exploring effective methods to detect the first signs of cancer.
We know that more focused cancer treatments can make cancer therapy less painful. So NCI-funded scientists are actively investigating drugs that may stop tumor growth by preventing new blood vessels from reaching the tumor.
We still have a long way to go. Despite our victories, each day 3,400 Americans are diagnosed with some form of cancer, and more than 1,500 die from the disease. Almost every American family has been touched by cancer. But each new discovery brings hope. And the government can bolster that hope by funding vital medical research and by attracting talented people to conduct the research.
Andy von Eschenbach is one of America's finest medical researchers. He got his start in the medical field right here in Washington, D.C., where he attended Georgetown University Medical School. He's been a member of the faculty at the University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas since 1977.
Andy is the Director of M.D. Anderson's prostate cancer research program. He is a professor of urology, a consulting professor of cancer biology, and a surgeon. He understands that basic research is the foundation to any success in eliminating cancer, and that research breakthroughs must be translated into effective treatments for patients.
Andy also understands personally the importance of our war on cancer. He is a two-time cancer survivor, all too familiar with cancer's frightening effects. He will bring to his new position not only expertise and talent and dedication, but compassion for the millions of cancer patients and their families who are struggling with this disease.
Several principles will guide the National Cancer Institute. The Institute will fund and conduct aggressive, basic research in order to understand the fundamental nature of cancer. NCI researchers and clinicians will collaborate with other federal health agencies to translate advances in research into new tools to fight cancer. NCI will work cooperatively with other government agencies and with private organizations to expand research opportunities.
Researchers and practitioners will not only strive to eliminate and cure cancer, but to help cancer survivors lead richer and fuller lives. And the Institute will conduct research to help close the prevention and treatment gap for minorities who are disproportionately affected by cancer.
Our war against cancer is a war waged on behalf of all Americans of every background. We now have technologies and research opportunities unthinkable just years ago, which make the defeat of cancer a realistic hope. With the right leadership, the dreams of three decades of research, and the hopes of every person and every family struggling with cancer, we may reach our goal within the new decade. And we've chosen a great man to lead the cause.
DR. VON ESCHENBACH: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you for bestowing on me the greatest honor and responsibility of my life.
Secretary Thompson, ladies and gentlemen of the cancer community, God has blessed America. And among those abundant blessings are our nation's incredibly brilliant and innovative scientists and clinicians, many of whom are gathered in this room. I am especially pleased that many from the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute are here. I consider it a singular privilege to be chosen to be your associate.
Over these past few decades, throughout this country, dedicated men and women, such as these, have been unlocking the secrets of the cancer cell and identifying the genes and proteins that are responsible for the development and progression of a malignant tumor.
For the one in two men, and the one of three women in this country who will be told that they have cancer, this new knowledge is creating new hope, because when we understand how a cancer develops, we can understand how to intervene and halt that process.
As the Director of the National Cancer Institute, I will be devoted to nurturing and promoting the paradigm of discovery through basic research.
America is blessed and grateful to you, Mr. President, for your leadership, your commitment and support to accelerate the biomedical research needed to understand cancer at the genetic, molecular and cellular level. But we have recognized that scientific discovery, although essential, is not sufficient.
We cannot rest until we translate our new understanding of cancer into interventions that will detect cancer, new drugs that will treat and even prevent cancer. Only then can scientific discovery result in saved lives and reduced suffering. And once discovered and developed, we must assure that these new interventions are delivered to patients and communities at risk.
Discovery, development and delivery of state-of-the-art cancer care and control requires collaboration. As NCI Director, I am determined to support Secretary Thompson and our department's effort to create collaborations among federal and state agencies, public and private institutions, cancer organizations and cancer survivors, groups that are crucial to accelerating the process from discovery to delivery.
I'm so pleased that so many representatives of the cancer community have gathered here today. Working together one-on-one, or collectively, through entities like the National Dialogue on Cancer, we will discover, and we will assure state-of-the-art cancer care for all Americans, especially those who are bearing a disproportionate burden of this disease.
God has blessed America with talent, resources and resolve. And today, Mr. President, I am blessed by your trust and your confidence. To those to whom much is given, much is expected. I pledge to honor your trust by following your example of fostering cooperations and collaborations that make it possible for Americans to meet any challenge -- even the challenge of conquering cancer.
To the more than 1 million Americans who are diagnosed each year with cancer and in remembrance of all those who have died of this disease, I pledge that we will not rest or yield until we have fulfilled the promise of eliminating the suffering and death caused by cancer.
And in response to God's abundant blessings on America, we will not do this for ourselves, but will reach out to share our gifts with all nations, and respond to the call to eliminate from the world the horror we call cancer.
My heartfelt thanks and appreciation to you, Mr. President, and to you, Mr. Secretary, and to the cancer community and to my wife, Madeleine and our family. May God continue to bless America and all of you. (Applause.)
END 3:59 P.M. EST