Dear Mr. Sterling:
I am a Virginia resident, writing to introduce myself and respectfully
request Senator Warner's support on an important issue facing our
Nation's veterans. My late father, Admiral Zumwalt, former Chief of
Naval Operations, worked closely with Senator Warner when the latter was
Secretary of the Navy in the early 1970s. My father died in January 2000
of an incurable disease that afflicts more residents of Virginia than
any other state in the country. This disease remains incurable because
federal funding has yet to be seriously committed to finding a cure.
Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer of the lining of the lungs, abdomen
or heart. The medical community agrees that a mesothelioma tumor is among
the most painful of cancers to experience and among those with the worst
prognosis. On average, mesothelioma patients survive only four to 14 months
after diagnosis. My father failed to even reach the four month minimum,
losing his life only three months after being diagnosed.
I am writing to ask for Senator Warner's support for the Mesothelioma
Foundation's efforts to advance the research and treatment of this
deadly disease by expanding access to federal sources of grant funding.
As an essential first step, I look for Senator Warner's support in
ensuring that mesothelioma is included as a candidate for research under
the DOD's Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program for FY 2007. In FY
2006, this program received $50 million to support medical research projects
of clear scientific merit and direct relevance to military health.
One-third of today's mesothelioma patients are veterans who were exposed
to asbestos during their service to our country onboard U.S. Navy ships
or in shipyards. Despite this deadly toll on those who served our country,
mesothelioma has been an orphan disease in terms of federal funding. Historically,
the National Cancer Institute has devoted minimal funding to support mesothelioma
research. Given the current budgetary constraints, it will be increasingly
difficult for mesothelioma investigators to secure funding through the
National Institutes of Health. And, despite the incredible investment
in biomedical research made through the Department of Defense (DOD) -
an estimated $3.75 billion since 1992 - none has been invested in mesothelioma research.
As reported, the Commonwealth of Virginia has one of the highest rates
of mesothelioma in the country. In fact, Suffolk City and Hampton City
rank as the top two counties with the highest mesothelioma mortality rates,
according to the National Center for Health Statistics (1999). The presence
of shipyards and naval ship construction are believed to contribute to
such a high state-centered mesothelioma mortality rate.
The strong connection between mesothelioma and military service makes this
cancer a just and deserving area of research to be included as a candidate
in the DOD Peer Review Medical Research Program. This would add no new
funding to the federal budget; it would merely allow mesothelioma investigators
to compete within the already established fund based on the scientific
merit of mesothelioma research proposals.
Senators John Ensign (R-NV) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) share these concerns
and are leading a bipartisan effort in the U.S. Senate to add mesosothelioma
to the list of diseases and conditions eligible to compete for DOD funding.
They are circulating a letter to the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee
Chairman, Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK), and Ranking Member, Senator Daniel
Inouye (D-HI) asking that mesothelioma be included on the list. I look
for Senator Warner's support in this effort and hope that he will
agree to sign the letter as well. The points of contact for signing on
to the letter are Ann Gavaghan in Senator Clinton's office and D'Arcy
Grisier in Senator Ensign's office.
I have attached the
Dear Colleague Letter being circulated by Senators Clinton and Ensign, to which I hope Senator
Warner will agree to add his name to those of his fellow Senators listed thereon.
Thank you for your consideration of this request. I would be happy to speak
with you further about this effort should you so desire.
James G. Zumwalt