Maryland Uses Big Tobacco Money to Beat Cancer
Date: April 20, 2010
DOES EXPOSURE TO certain metals promote prostate cancer? What is the risk
of getting cancer from second-hand smoke? Can a vaccine prevent cervical cancer?
Johns Hopkins scientists will look for answers to these questions and others with the first distribution of funds from Johns Hopkins’ share of the State of Maryland’s settlement with cigarette manufacturers.
“We are taking aggressive action to close the book on Maryland’s tobacco heritage
and improving the health and quality of life for all Marylanders,” said Governor Parris N. Glendening in 2001.
“We have created programs to help farmers stop growing tobacco, we have passed
laws to help protect people from secondhand smoke and we have sponsored educational
and research programs across the State to find out why we have such a high cancer rate in Maryland. Projects like this one at Johns Hopkins will help us root out the causes behind this and allow us to find ways to lower both the cancer rate and the impact it has on our community.”
Baltimore City currently leads the state and nation in deaths due to cancer-related
air pollutants and prostate cancer. Maryland consistently ranks high in cancer deaths compared to other states.
With money from the Cigarette Restitution Fund (CRF), Johns Hopkins directed its efforts to translational research in lung, breast, cervical, skin, colon, oral and prostate cancer, which are among the most common and interventional cancers in Maryland.
Nineteen scientists at Johns Hopkins received the first CRF awards totaling over $2.1 million.
CANCER, A DISEASE attacking Baltimoreans at an alarming rate, costs the lives of more than 10,000 Marylanders each year. Screening tests that can provide early detection and cure are vastly underused by minorities and the poor who suffer disproportionately from prostate, breast, oral, and cervical cancers.
Now through the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Cigarette Restitution Fund Program, Johns Hopkins, University of Maryland, the Baltimore City Health Department and Sinai Hospital, are working together to bring cancer screening into these communities. Officials are setting up sites in Baltimore City community health centers to offer simple screening tests and provide information that could save lives.
The screening program was kicked off on November 13, 2001, at the Park Heights Community Health Alliance. Secretary of Health, Dr. Georges Benjamin, members of the Maryland General Assembly representing Baltimore City, then-Baltimore City Mayor Martin O’Malley, City Council Members, and other community leaders were invited to
help promote the event. Other community sites included the Urban Medical Institute, UniversityCare at Edmondson Village, Bea Gaddy’s Cancer Education and Prevention Center, the Hispanic Apostolate, Garden of Prayer Baptist Church, the Korean Resource Center, the Baltimore City Health Department Oral Health Services Program and
Morgan State University.
Free prostate specific antigen (PSA) tests and digital rectal exams for prostate cancer were made possible through the CRF. Oral swabs for head and neck cancers; Pap smears for cervical cancer and breast exam and mammography for breast cancer were done through other research grants.
“If my mother had regular screening for breast cancer, she might be alive today,” says Sandra Briggs, Executive Director of Bea Gaddy’s Family Centers, Inc. and daughter of community activist and city council member Bea Gaddy, who had recently died of breast cancer and for whom one of the Centers is named.
CRF INVESTIGATORS RECEIVING HONORS AND AWARDS
MARTIN ABELOFF, M.D. was among the top cancer physicians listed by Good
Housekeeping magazine. Oncologists were nominated by department chairs and section
chiefs in surgical, medical, and radiation oncology at major medical centers throughout
JOSEPH CALIFANO, M.D. , and MAURA GILLISON, M.D. , P H . D. ,
were among only five physicians worldwide to receive an investigator award from the
cancer Research Fund of the Damon Runyen- Walter Winchell Foundation sponsored by
Eli Lily and Company. Gillison was chosen for her clinical studies associating the human
papillomavirus with head and neck cancers. Her mentor, KEERTI V. SHAH, M.D., also received an award. Califano was selected for research in head and neck cancers as well.
Time magazine named DAVID SIDRANSKY,M.D. , in its special issue “America’s
Best Science and Medicine.” Sidransky was recognized for his work using subtle genetic
alterations to develop early screening tests for a variety of cancers, including bladder,
colon, head and neck, and lung cancers.
VICTOR VELCULESCU, M.D., PH.D., received the Amersham Pharacia Biotech
and Science Prize for Young Scientists for his work in developing SAGE, a method to
rapidly identify disease-related genes and measure gene expression.
With money from the Cigarette Restitution Fund (CRF), Johns Hopkins directed its efforts to community- focused research in lung, breast, cervical, skin, colon, oral and prostate cancer, which are among the most common and deadly cancers in Maryland.