The Star-Ledger

N.J. Needs To Fund Critical Research

The Star-Ledger — May 13, 2018

Phyllis Salowe-Kaye
Guest Columnist

Four years ago, I shared my story about how our family, like nearly every other family in New Jersey, has been touched by cancer. My mother had lung cancer, my father had bladder cancer, and three of my four grandparents died of cancer. My husband of over 40 years has leukemia.

In 1985,1 was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer usually found in the extremities of black males over 50.1 was a 38-year-old white woman, and the malignant fibro sarcoma was growing in my head. It still is. And then in 1998,1 got breast cancer from a completely different tumor.

So in our house, we definitely care about cancer research. But we're not unique, as this issue is personal for everyone and there are thousands of stories that can be told. But as the longtime head of New Jersey Citizen Action when former Gov. Chris Christie cut $10 million from New Jersey's leading cancer research organization, I joined the fight to restore the funding to the New Jersey Commission for Cancer Research (NJCCR). And with a great deal of hard work from a lot of folks, the funding was restored.

After multiple surgeries, endless rounds of chemotherapy, and extensive radiation, I am fortunate to be considered a breast cancer "survivor," and with the tumor in my head growing oh-so-slowly, I, along with cancer patients and their families across New Jersey, count on the cutting edge research funded by the commission to keep us alive and kicking.

Sadly, the budget submitted by Gov. Phil Murphy has eliminated all of the commission's funding. This is obviously a bad situation, not just for my family but also for all New Jerseyans.

Kenneth Adler has been our doctor since my husband and I were first diagnosed. He is the current chair of the New Jersey Commission on Cancer Research, and works as a hematologist/oncologist at the Summit Medical Group MD Anderson Cancer program in Florham Park. The commission has spent the last 35 years funding basic science and research grants across New Jersey. Established in 1983, NJCCR promotes significant and original research in New Jersey, looking into the causes, prevention, and treatment of cancer, serving as a resource to providers and consumers of cancer services throughout out state.

In Adler's own words, "the commission is the only state-run institution that provides peer-reviewed scientific cancer research grants for all eligible academic institutions in New Jersey. We have demonstrated a 10-to-l rate of return for the state: in fact, recipients who receive the commission's research grants on average attract $10 in funding from federal and private sources for every $1 spent by the NJCCR. For the past two years, the commission has had an Annual Fall Cancer Research Symposium with more than 50 poster presentations by the grantees presenting their research findings."

Adler and I are both very disappointed to find that Murphy's most recent budget proposal did not dedicate any research funding for the New Jersey Commission on Cancer Research. We feel that the commission has made a significant contribution to research within our state over the past 35 years. We hope this Senate and Assembly will reinstate these funds so the commission has the ability to have a much-needed executive director to carry out its mission in the best possible manner.

Great things are happening in New Jersey, and they must continue. We are obligated to support our families by funding critical cancer research.

Phyllis Salowe-Kaye is executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action. Cancer patients across New Jersey count on the cutting edge research funded by the commission to keep us alive and kicking.

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