04/04/10 — SMOC breaks ties with Relay for Life, ACS

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SMOC breaks ties with Relay for Life, ACS

By Laura Collins
Published in News on April 4, 2010 1:50 AM

After years of working together, Southeastern Medical Oncology Center in Goldsboro is parting ways with the American Cancer Society.

A letter from physicians James Atkins, Keith Lerro, I-Wen Chang and Samer Kasbari to the center's patients stated the economy as one of the reasons.

"In these challenging economic times and declining support to cancer care, we have been confronted with some difficult decisions. One of these decisions has been where to direct our limited financial resources," the letter said. "Southeastern Medical Oncology Center will be funneling financial support away from the American Cancer Society and to local charities that are actively serving the patients and families of our communities."

Bo Gamble, SMOC administrator, said the practice has become increasingly unhappy with the American Cancer Society's allocation of money.

"The majority of funds raised in Wayne County, don't stay in Wayne County. It goes to other places in the state and country," he said. "We can either support national incentives or local incentives, but we can't do both."

Chris Green, vice president of communications for the American Cancer Society South Atlantic Division, said while funds might not come directly back to Wayne County, they still benefit cancer patients in the county.

"One thing that is very important to us is funding research," Green said. "That might not necessarily be spent in the community it was raised (in), but it impacts cancer everywhere. If we find something that leads to a breakthrough in cancer, it helps people with cancer nationwide."

SMOC has the fourth-largest clinical trial research program in the state behind Duke University, University of North Carolina and Wake Forest University, but the practice does not receive any funding -- for research or otherwise -- from the American Cancer Society. The center's clinic trials are funded through National Cancer Institute or pharmaceutical companies.

Green was not able to give a percentage or dollar amount that stays locally from fundraisers like the Wayne County Relay for Life, which raised more than $634,000 in 2009, but said 109 county residents benefited from funds raised in Wayne County last year.

*12 residents with cancer stayed at the Greenville Hope Lodge while receiving cancer treatments in the Greenville area.

*Five residents were assisted by the Patient Advocate Program.

*Four residents were assisted by the Dietitian On Call Program.

*One cancer survivor received a college scholarship.

*18 residents were assisted with transportation.

*23 residents were assisted with resource referral.

*46 were assisted through other programs.

In addition to funding concerns, SMOC also disagrees with the American Cancer Society's stance on the Health Care Reform Bill.

"They're not sensitive to current cancer issues," Gamble said of the ACS. "They supported the first Health Care House Bill, which called for cuts in cancer care."

Although the current version of the bill, which was passed earlier in the month, might not call for cancer care cuts, there will be cuts to Medicare, which is the primary health care for many cancer patients.

Cancer Action Now, the American Cancer Society's advocacy affiliate, said the organization supports the bill because it "takes a number of steps to improve health care for cancer patients and their families by refocusing the system to emphasize prevention ... the bill proposes a significant investment in cancer prevention and early detection."

Green said he is not sure the impact SMOC will have on the American Cancer Society's local Relay for Life effort, which is ranked as one of the most successful in the country.

"We won't know for sure until the Relay for Life event is completed and we see the results," he said. "Any team that decides not to participate with us, we certainly miss their participation, but we're not sure the impact it will have."