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 Home > News & Policies > December 2001

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 6, 2001

President Names Director of National Cancer Institute
Presidential Hall
Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building

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President George W. Bush announces the new director of the National Cancer Institute Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach (right) as Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson applauds. White House photo by Moreen Ishikawa.

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.

Welcome.  (Applause.)

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