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The news today that cyclist Lance Armstrong had stepped down as chairman of the namesake nonprofit foundation he founded in 1997 following his triumphant recovery from cancer was just the latest seismic shift in the landscape of the cancer advocacy and research community.
Since the beginning of this year alone, an increasing number of “distractions” have unsettled major players and efforts in the world of oncology including:
· The ultimate resignations of Susan G. Komen for the Cure CEO Nancy Brinker and President Liz Thompson following the Planned Parenthood fiasco.
· The sudden shutdown and termination of Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization.
· The now-secretly-resolved lawsuit between the University of Pennsylvania and the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute and its former leader Craig Thompson, MD, current President of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
· The conflict-of-interest allegations at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the resultant recent resignations of half of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas' scientific review committee, including two Nobel laureates.
· The takeover of Fox Chase Cancer Center, a freestanding NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, by Temple University Health System.
· And, Armstrong’s resignation today, a week after the US Anti-Doping Agency released its report explaining why it had stripped the cyclist of his seven Tour de France victories.
Of course, all has not been doom and gloom, but with the lessened roles of such iconic figures as Armstrong and Brinker who are intrinsically linked with their organizations’ respective psyches, and the subsequent financial decline so far at Komen, it remains to be seen how cancer advocacy and fundraising will fare in the near future, and I’ve heard whispers about other iconic institutions facing possible problems down the road.
I’ll be following up soon on the Armstrong story and also examining what could be the cumulative effect of these and other “distractions” from the cancer community’s core missions.
Eric T. RosenthalEric T. Rosenthal has spent more than 40 years in journalism and academic public affairs, more than half of them involved in the cancer community. He has received several journalism awards as Special Correspondent for Oncology Times, and helped organize two national conferences dealing with medicine and the media.
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