President George W. Bush visited NIH for about 90 minutes on Jan. 17, touring a cancer research laboratory in Bldg. 10 and participating
in a discussion on cancer prevention. It was his fifth visit to campus in the past 4 years.
“Let me thank you personally on behalf of NIH for your interest [and] support in what we do,” said NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni, welcoming
Bush to a briefing in the Clinical Center’s Medical Board Room. “You are the President who has come to see us the most often. And this is a testimony to your commitment—not only to our research, but also to your plan for AIDS relief, and your compassion about the suffering that people throughout the world are experiencing today.”
In his remarks, Bush praised the the agency’s work, touting the new vaccine against cervical
“I love coming to the NIH,” he said. “It is an amazing place…because it is full of decent, caring,
smart people, all aiming to save lives. And I truly believe the NIH is one of America’s greatest assets. And it needs to be nourished.
NCI’s Dr. Marston Linehan (l) gives cancer research update to (from l) President Bush, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt and NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni.
At left, NCI director Dr. John Niederhuber takes part in the roundtable discussion as cancer
survivor Dr. Grace Butler (r) listens. At right, Bush and Zerhouni enjoy an exchange.
Bush and Zerhouni listen to breast cancer survivor Becky Fisher.
“And I’m real pleased to be working with Elias and the good folks who work here to make sure that there’s ample resources to fund these incredible projects that are taking place,” Bush continued.
“First, I’m pleased that we’re funding cancer research. We’re up about 25 percent or 26 percent since 2001; it’s a commitment that I made when I first came to Washington, it’s a commitment we’re keeping. And the reason why it makes sense to spend taxpayers’ money on cancer research is that we can make some good progress, and have. Interestingly enough, this is the second consecutive year there was a drop in the number of cancer deaths in the United States. And the drop this year was the steepest ever recorded.”
Bush received information on the Cancer Genome Atlas Project, a 3-year, $100 million collaboration between NCI and NHGRI to create a trove of molecular data describing the genomic changes that occur in all types of cancer. He toured a research lab that focuses on patients with hereditary kidney cancer. Scientists there are trying
to identify the specific genetic mutations that cause the disease. Among his tutors was Dr. Marston Linehan, chief of NCI’s Urologic Oncology Branch.
Bush also noted NIH involvement in creation of the human papillomavirus vaccine, which blocks the virus that causes more than 70 percent of cervical cancer cases. Cervical cancer is the second most common
cause of cancer death in women worldwide.
The President also called on Congress to pass genetic nondiscrimination legislation. “I really want to make it clear to the Congress that I hope they pass legislation that makes genetic discrimination illegal,” he said. “In other words, if a person is willing to share his or her genetic information, it is important that that information
not be exploited in improper ways...we want medical
research to go forward without an individual fearing
of personal discrimination.”
As a roundtable discussion on advances in the fight against cancer began, Bush said, “I wish that people could walk the halls here at the NIH and meet the scientists
and employees of this fantastic organization. It is amazing.”
Present at the gathering were HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, Zerhouni, NCI director Dr. John Niederhuber,
NHGRI director Dr. Francis Collins, Clinical Center
director Dr. John Gallin, Dr. Grace Butler, colorectal cancer survivor and president of Hope Through Grace, and Becky Fisher, breast cancer survivor and librarian for the Center for the Study of Intelligence.