South Florida Hospital News
Thursday August 6, 2020
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September 2016 - Volume 13 - Issue 3
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Biden Must Back Up His Threat With Action

Vice President Joe Biden took a bold step during his cancer summit when he threatened to cut federal funding to researchers who fail to quickly share clinical-trial data.

While I applaud his words, I hope he backs them up with action. After months of campaigning to encourage the medical community to collaborate, it has become clear that self-interests are so ingrained that they won’t change unless forced to do so.
 
We have the opportunity to make unbelievable strides in our fight against the malady we call cancer. But it will require a collaborative effort between government and the private sector. And one with a resolute focus on the benefit for patients.
 
Never before have we had the access and capacity to collect, store and mine such critical data to help identify promising precision treatment for individual patients. Harnessing data in a way that truly benefits the patient, however, will require a major shift in our thinking.
 
The conversation around this topic has reached a feverous pitch recently, both politically and clinically. But while exciting, much of this crescendo is just noise. How do we move beyond the rhetoric to find a solution focused on the patient?
 
The only database project worth our collective attention is one designed with the patient in mind, devoid of commercial gain or proprietary research value. We have the opportunity to revolutionize cancer care. Instead, we’ve seen a jockeying for academic milestones, sales goals, product development, and research conducted for the benefit of the researcher. Too many are striving for their own agendas. The patient then becomes secondary.
 
We need Biden to focus his efforts on convincing Congress to act. It’s Congress – urged by the American public – that has the power to create a truly robust, patient-focused database.
 
If taxes are being used to fund cancer research, the public can demand that the federal government require every detail of that research – down to the genome – is shared in a collective, transparent and accessible database that is compliant with all HIPAA regulations.
 
Every provider of cancer care, every academician studying treatment options, and every oncologist must come together in a unified effort to share information. It must be a completely open database, one in which everyone can participate with the knowledge and information sharing that will be available to all. If one penny of government funding is used in this effort, participants must be required to share. With open access to this kind of information, we can dramatically revolutionize the course of cancer care and cut down the timeframe to get the right treatment to the right patient from decades to months.
 
Let’s make it happen for cancer patients today. We’ve all waited far too long.

Dr. Maurie Markman, President of Medicine & Science at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, can be reached at maurie.markman@ctca-hope.com.

 
This column originally appeared in Morning Consult (www.MorningConsult.com).
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