updated 6/13/2005 1:08:42 PM ET 2005-06-13T17:08:42

Promising cancer research needs to be translated more quickly into practical methods of diagnosis and treatment, a presidential commission says.

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Barriers exist at every step between the laboratory and a patient’s bed, according to the report being released Monday.

Unless those barriers are eased, “the national investment in cancer research will be tragically squandered, for discoveries that do not lead to improved patient outcomes are tantamount to no discovery at all,” the President’s Cancer Panel said.

This year, some 1.37 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed and about 570,000 Americans will die from cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

Too long to reach patients
Because the risk of cancer increases with age, cases are expected to rise as the number of older people increases.

Yet the past two decades have produced “a biological revolution” bringing new insights into how cancer forms, said one member of the commission, Margaret Kripke of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas.

The challenge is to speed the translation of more of those insights into something doctors and patients can use. Aside from scientific challenges, one problem is that advances can take too long to reach patient care, said the panel’s chairman, Dr. LaSalle Leffall Jr. of Howard University in Washington.

“If we don’t get the information out, of what value is it to patients?” he asked.

Among the panel’s recommendations:

  • The National Cancer Institute should require that hospitals it designates as comprehensive cancer centers disseminate research findings to local oncologists and other cancer organizations.
  • The institute should redouble efforts to increase community-level clinical trials. About 20 percent of cancer patients are medically eligible for those studies, but just 3 percent enroll. One reason is that trials are offered mainly in academic medical centers, while at least 80 percent of cancer patients are treated by community oncologists.
  • Lack of trust is an additional reason for the low study enrollment. To improve that, cancer researchers must do a better job sharing the results of clinical trials with subjects and participating communities.
  • Medicare officials should consider collecting information about the stages of cancer of patients treated under the program. This data could be used to improve treatment decisions and see how quickly research findings are translated into practice.

Federal cancer officials had no immediate comment on the recommendations.

The three-member commission, which also included cycling champion and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong, provides periodic reports to the president on issues surrounding cancer research, incidence and care.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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