An expanded Hawai'i cancer center benefits the whole country
A message from UH President Evan S. Dobelle
While in Washington: UH President Evan Dobelle and UH Alumni Association President Christine Kondo, right, met with Anny Wong, Washington, D.C., alumni leader for the East-West Center, during an alumni reception at the Smithsonian Castle hosted by former UH ethnic studies scholar Franklin Odo, director of the Smithsonian’s Asian Pacific American Program. Dobelle and Kondo also met with UHAA-East President Karen Liu and other UH alumni at the Japan Society in New York.
In March 2004, UH Cancer Research Center Director Carl-Wilhelm Vogel and I testified before Sen. Daniel Inouye, Sen. Daniel Akaka and other members of the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies. Our message was both simple and profound—Hawai'i needs to add a clinical care component to the remarkable research activities already undertaken by our Cancer Research Center of Hawai'i faculty.
We addressed Congress not because such a center is the dominant recommendation of the Governor’s blue ribbon panel on cancer care in Hawai'i, although it is, nor because it would bring economic benefit to our state and improve the level of care available to our citizens, which it will. Rather, we told the senators why an expanded cancer center in the middle of the Pacific is in the nation’s best interest.
Hawai'i’s human environment is unique, the most ethnically diverse population in the United States. Cancer rates vary by ethnicities, as does the efficacy of treatment. Research here has already yielded clues about how genes, diet, other environmental factors, culture and behavior relate to the prevalence of cancer. Clinical trials that enroll our citizens will tell the nation how best to prevent, detect and combat the disease among various ethnic groups.
We have the only National Cancer Institutedesignated center strategically located to identify the lifestyle and genetic factors that contribute to cancer risk, evaluate safe cancer therapies for ethnic group patients and design prevention programs that are culturally and socially appropriate. The research that happens here will have dramatic ripple effects throughout the entire global medical community.
Hawai'i is also home to the U.S. Pacific Command, which oversees more than 300,000 men and women in all four branches of the military. We are still learning about the health risks associated with deployment in remote locales and complex environments—issues like agent orange and Gulf War Syndrome. With expansion of a cancer center in Hawai'i, we will be able to work with USPACOM to ensure adequate research and appropriate care for our troops.
Three out of four new cancers occur in people 55 and older. With the number of Americans in this age group increasing, experts expect the number of new cancer cases to double to 2.5 million by 2050. It’s no wonder, then, that Sen. Inouye has publicly called for funding for UH’s cancer center as his major priority.