On Monday, September 8, 2008, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA)
congratulated ASH on its 50th anniversary during a speech on the floor
of the U.S. Senate. Below is the text of his speech as published in the Congressional Record.
Mr. President, I would like to take a moment to congratulate the
American Society of Hematology, which is observing its 50th anniversary
this year, and to salute the advances hematologists have been able to
make in biomedical research, largely as a result of the funding for the
National Institutes of Health that many of us in the Senate fight for
ASH represents more than 15,000 clinicians and scientists committed
to the study and treatment of blood and blood-related diseases,
including blood cancers, bleeding and clotting diseases, and hereditary
disorders. Hematologists have made remarkable contributions to the
advancement of biomedical research and are active participants in NIH
biomedical research programs, recipients of NIH grants, and
contributors to NIH's biomedical research accomplishments. I am pleased
to note that some of this groundbreaking research is being conducted in
Iowa by ASH member Dr. George Weiner and his team at the Holden
Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa.
Hematologists have been at the forefront of some of the most
remarkable advancements in medicine over the past half century. ASH
members have turned federal research dollars into effective treatments
for diseases that were once disabling or a death sentence, and have
been pioneers in the fields of bone marrow transplantation and gene
By the NIH's own estimates, the overall five-year survival rate for
childhood cancers rose to nearly 80 percent during the 1990s from under
60 percent in the 1970s. A diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia
was fatal for every child who developed it in the 1960s, but today,
after new combinations of drugs were developed by hematology
researchers, and aggressive treatment of the brain and spinal fluid
were incorporated, approximately 80 percent of children with the
disease are cured.
NIH also notes that the emergence of new, more precise ways to treat
cancer, such as drugs that target abnormal proteins in cancer cells,
have contributed to a dramatic increase in the average life expectancy
for Americans. Again, hematologists have been at the forefront of these
APL was once described as the most malignant form of acute leukemia.
Today, the treatment of APL has become a model for treating cancer with
targeted therapy. In combination with chemotherapy, targeted treatment
has significantly improved survival in patients with APL and raised
remission rates to about 85 percent.
In the 1950s, the only treatment for CML was radiation of the
spleen, granting patients about 30 months of survival. Analysis of the
CML-specific chromosomal translocation allowed the development of
imatinib, a gene-targeting drug that is the paradigm for a new
generation of "smart" drugs that allow disease-specific therapy. Using
this nontoxic oral drug, more than 75 percent of patients diagnosed
with CML achieve a durable, complete cytogenetic remission.
I have consistently fought for increases to NIH annual budget, and
will continue to do so to ensure that hematologists and researchers
around the nation continue to have the resources necessary to lead in
new fields of biomedical investigation and translate new scientific
discoveries into improved diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive
Again, I salute the American Society of Hematology for a magnificent
first 50 years. With continued NIH funding, I am confident that
hematologists will have even greater successes in treating and
eliminating blood diseases over the next 50 years.
To read previous congratulations from Senator Arlen Spector and
Representatives Michael Castle and Jesse Jackson Jr., head to the 50th Anniversary page.
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