Below is a list of frequently asked questions about the Maryland Cigarette Restitution Fund Program (CRFP). Click on a question for the answer, or scroll down to view the complete list of questions and answers.
Q: What is the CRFP all about?
The state of Maryland was one of 46 states, five territories and
the District of Columbia to benefit from the 1999 multi-state lawsuit against
the cigarette manufacturers. Subsequently, the Maryland General Assembly announced a 10-year, $1 billion
comprehensive plan to use tobacco settlement funds to reduce Maryland's mortality
rate from cancer and other tobacco-related diseases.
Q: Why is this program so important to Maryland residents?
Maryland's cancer mortality rate has always been very high, and currently is the ninth highest in the nation.
Q: How is the money being allocated?
The money is being allocated to address several key areas. One is to reduce the use of tobacco -- to help people stop smoking and to educate children and others to never start. Another key area is funding for cancer research at both the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins. A third key component is funding for early diagnosis and screening across the state for people who haven't had the opportunity to have cancer screening done.
Q: What is the University of Maryland Medical Group (UMMG)?
The group is made up of University of Maryland Medical Center, University of Maryland School of Medicine, University of Maryland Baltimore, and University of Maryland Medical System. It was established to receive tobacco restitution funds and to partner with the state to create and implement a plan to conquer cancer in Maryland.
Q: What are some of the activities already underway as part of that UMMG umbrella?
We have moved quickly to put the dollars coming in into both clinical and laboratory research. We want to translate or move our research activities from the lab into the clinic. We have also expanded our clinical and patient care activities. We have attracted some of the nation's top scientists and cancer specialists, who are part of our multi-disciplinary teams of doctors. These teams meet with patients and provide a diagnosis and treatment plan so the patient doesn't have to go from one doctor to another. And, we have used these dollars to implement more extensive patient care activities. In addition, we have been involved in screening activities. We've set up some screening activities, particularly in Baltimore City, and with the Statewide Health Network, where we are working to enable greater access to patient care for all Marylanders.
Q: What is translational research, and why is it important?
Translational research, which means taking advances from the laboratory and applying them to help cancer patients at the bedside, is very important because our goal is to provide cancer patients with the latest treatment. We are taking advantage of the rapid growth in our knowledge of basic cancer biology and using that understanding in the clinic to improve patient care. There's been a revolution in our understanding of how the cancer cell grows and what the mechanisms are involved. We can now take advantage of that understanding and begin to target specific cancer cells, so that we develop diagnostic tools and therapies that not only help us diagnose but also treat the patient.
Q: Are there examples of these funds being used to support important laboratory research programs?
Two good examples are our genomics laboratory -- which finds and analyzes specific genes involved in cancer -- and our proteomics laboratory -- which aids in the discovery of the proteins associated with particular forms of cancer. Initiatives like these not only provide more understanding of cancer, but also point the way to new treatments.
Q: How important are CRFP funds to this type of research?
They are very important because of the cost for such projects. For example, our genomics lab has $1.5 million worth of working equipment. You would never get that amount from a research grant. So, the Cigarette Restitution Fund allows this facility to be established, and now many different investigators can use that laboratory. And because they have the laboratory, they now can go and apply to the NIH for funding for their individual research projects. It's great leverage -- taking $1 and getting $10 back because of its use.
Q: At what point does the knowledge learned in the lab positively impact cancer patients?
As soon as possible, since all of our research activities are ultimately directed toward improving patient care. For example, when we identify a unique protein that we think is important in cancer cell growth, we now have a group of individuals who investigate that protein, help determine what the structure might be, and then based on that structure, look at what drugs might interact with that protein. Once we can determine that, we can begin to look at moving that drug into the clinic. The University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center (UMGCC) has a large number of clinical trials that are based on our knowledge of the cancer cell and how that's different from the normal cell. Much of our therapy in the future is what we're going to call smart therapy. It's therapy that's directed at the cancer cell and tries to preserve the normal cells. We're doing this with drugs, with other types of biologic molecules, and we also do it with radiation therapy.
Q: How important is the fact that the CRFP provides reliable, sustained funding over a long period of time?
It is really important because it lets our investigators and our clinicians know that it will be there each year and we can plan and know that starting something this year, it will be able to continue.
Q: How do these funds help in terms of recruiting top scientists and cancer specialists?
Since the Cigarette Restitution Funds became available, when it comes time to recruit an individual, that individual knows that there's the stability of the funding and frankly, they're looking at the University of Maryland and saying, 'that's the place to be now.'
Q: Reducing cancer morbidity and mortality is a tough challenge, in part because there are so many different types of cancer. How does this concentrated approach and funding figure to help in the cancer fight?
These dollars clearly will enable us to more rapidly move our understanding of cancer biology to the clinic, thus improving patient care in the process. This revolution that we've seen in the understanding of cancer now is something we can take advantage of by bringing the new therapies and give patients the greatest hope for successful treatment. Long term, there's no question the morbidity and mortality of cancer will come down. Not overnight, there's no quick fix and it won't be all cancers at once. It will be a little of this and a little of that over time but overall, the morbidity and mortality will come down.