Cigarette Restitution Fund Program - FAQs

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 comprehensive plan to use tobacco settlement funds to reduce Maryland's mortality rate from cancer and other tobacco-related diseases.

At the start of the CRF Program, Maryland's cancer mortality rate was the ninth highest in the nation. The CRF Program investment has helped to dramatically reduce cancer incidence and mortality in Maryland. In the early 1990s, cancer incidence in Maryland was among the highest in the nation, but now is well below the national average (38th).

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.

The group is made up of the 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. As a service of the University of Maryland Medical Center and with doctors who are faculty members of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center is a key part of the UMMG.

The University of Maryland has invested in both clinical and laboratory research related to cancer. This has allowed us to translate, or move, our research findings from the lab to the clinic where they can help patients.

CRF grants have also allowed the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center to expand its clinical and patient care activities and provide more extensive offerings. The University of Maryland has attracted some of the nation's top scientists and cancer specialists, who are part of the Cancer Center’s 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.

Finally, CRFdollars have allowed UMGCC to enable greater access to patient care through free cancer screenings. These screening have served uninsured and underinsured people, particularly in Baltimore City.

Translational research means taking advances from the laboratory and applying them to help cancer patients at the bedside. Translational research helps UMGCC provide cancer patients with the latest treatments. By taking advantage of the rapid growth in our knowledge of basic cancer biology and using that understanding in the clinic, patient care is improved.

There's been a revolution in the understanding of how cancer cells grow and what mechanisms are involved. The University of Maryland is on the forefront of using that understanding to target specific cancer cells as well as developing diagnostic tools and therapies that not only help diagnose but also help treat the patient.

Two good examples are the University of Maryland genomics laboratory -- which finds and analyzes specific genes involved in cancer -- and its 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.

These funds are very important because of the sizeable cost for such projects. For example, the genomics lab has working equipment worth more than $1.5 million, more than what could be provided from a research grant. However, the CRF has allowed this facility to be established, and now many investigators can share in the resources of that laboratory, further enhancing our cancer knowledge and leading to better treatments for patients.

Because all of the University of Maryland’s research activities are ultimately directed toward improving patient care, knowledge gained in the lab is used as soon as possible. For example, when a unique protein is identified that is believed to be important in cancer cell growth, a group of individuals can investigate that protein and then look at what drugs might interact with that protein. From there, clinical trials can be set up to offer new hope to patients who might have exhausted all other options.

UMGCC has a large number of clinical trials based on the knowledge of how cancer cells differ from normal cells. This “smart therapy” – or therapy directed at cancer cells while preserving the normal cells – is where cancer treatment is headed. Smart therapy has taken the form of treatment drugs, other types of biologic molecules and radiation therapy.

It is really important because it lets our investigators and our clinicians know that funding is reliable, and we can plan and know that if we start a new research project this year, it will be able to continue.

Since the Cigarette Restitution Funds became available to the University of Maryland, scientists and cancer specialists from all over the world have seen the stability of our research funding. These funds have allowed us to build a solid research program, which has in turn attracted additional grants, and now a critical mass of cancer research funds, facilities and technologies has made researchers look to the University of Maryland and see an attractive place to work.

CRF dollars enable the University of Maryland to more rapidly move an understanding of cancer biology to the clinic, thus improving patient care by bringing the new therapies and giving patients the greatest hope for successful treatment. As cancer knowledge increases, cancer morbidity and mortality rates will come down, as already evidenced by the improvement in the incidence of cancer in Maryland since the CRF was established.