Lukas Flippo, Senior Photographer

On Tuesday, Yale Law School’s Solomon Center hosted a virtual book launch for “A New Deal for Cancer: Lessons from a 50 Year War.” 

In 2018, the Solomon Center held a conference titled “The Policy, Politics and Law of Cancer,” drawing experts from multiple disciplines to discuss the disease which kills an estimated 600,000 Americans each year. Issues raised at the conference “organically” materialized into the new book, “A New Deal for Cancer: Lessons from a 50 Year War,” said Abbe Gluck ’96 LAW ’00, director of the Yale Solomon Center. The book is composed of numerous essays which take a “360 degree view” of cancer policy in the United States, according to Gluck. She co-edited the book with Charles Fuchs, the former director of the Yale Cancer Center.

Seeking to get the Solomon Center involved with cancer research, Gluck met with Fuchs in 2017 to come up with a plan forward. Finding no suitable venue to conduct research, they decided instead to hold a conference, convening experts on cancer and cancer policy. Now, three years in the making, Gluck and Fuchs hosted a virtual book launch with experts who contributed to the book, just weeks before the 50th anniversary of the 1971 Cancer Act, often referred to as the beginning of the “War on Cancer.”

“We’ve put together a constellation of superstars, each with expertise in their own domains, to identify what’s worked well over the past 50 years, what hasn’t, and to set forth a blueprint for the next decade and beyond,” Fuchs said at the event.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., opened the event, having co-wrote a chapter in the book, titled “Cancer in Congress,” with Gluck. DeLauro is a cancer survivor and an outspoken advocate in favor of cancer research funding and against sequestration, a process which began in 2013 that reduced federal funding for the National Institute of Health, or NIH, along with a “litany” of other federal programs, according to DeLauro’s opening remarks. 

The NIH is an organization which has tremendous power to do good, she said. As the head of the House Appropriations Committee, Delauro believes that she has a responsibility to continue advocating for research funding. 

“I don’t know of another cause where the federal government can play such an extraordinary role,” Delauro said at the event. “It’s about saving lives — there is nothing that we do that is more important than that.”

Edward Benz Jr., president of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, detailed the creation of a nationwide cancer center network, which he said was a key accomplishment of the 1971 National Cancer Act. 

With regard to government action, Benz advocated strongly for “comprehensive [medicare] reimbursement reform,” as opposed to “draconian cost cutting measures that target only one symptom of the problem.”

Otis Brawley, Bloomberg Professor of oncology and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University, co-authored a chapter on “Racial Disparities and Cancer Injustice.” At the event, he delved into the history of the 1971 National Cancer Act, specifically explaining the Surveillance Epidemiology And Results, or SEAR, program. SEAR, he said, allowed scientists to conclude that equal treatment leads to equal outcomes between races and helped them view adequate healthcare as a civil rights issue. 

In his speech, he affirmed the importance of equitable treatment, noting that disparities exist among race and region. For example, cancer mortality is higher in the Southern United States than it is in the Northeast. 

Brawley also noted a difference between the power of the research gathered and modern health outcomes. 

“If we apply everything that we have figured out what we should be applying…of the 600,000 people that died this year of cancer, 130,000 would not have died,” Brawley said at the event. “The National Cancer Act has done a great deal, but it’s also defined what we need to do.”

Cary Gross, a professor of medicine and public health at the Yale School of Medicine, leads the Cancer Outcomes, Public Policy, and Effectiveness Research Center, or COPPER. He co-authored two chapters, “(Over-)Paying for Cancer Care” and “The Fifty States of Cancer.”

Gross said that public health has traditionally been treated as a state responsibility. Therefore, over the past 25 years, breast cancer mortality has decreased at varying rates among different states. Lung cancer mortality varies “threefold” between a state like Colorado and a state like West Virginia, he said. Gross connected these state-by-state disparities to Medicaid expansion and the Affordable Care Act, with federally-subsidized Medicaid expansion having an impact on treatment in states where it was adopted.

High cancer costs “harm the country,” Gross said. He referenced studies which show that two out of five cancer patients drain their savings within two years of their diagnosis. The United States pays $600 per capita annually on cancer treatment, which is much more than other nations in the Global North, Gross said. 

“We’re spending double, but we’re getting relatively similar outcomes,” Gross said.

“A New Deal for Cancer: Lessons from a 50 Year War” is available in hardback, ebook and audiobook formats.

Carter Dewees is an Opinion columnist for the News. He is a Junior American Studies major in Saybrook College.