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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 22, 2006

Gov. Blagojevich and Comptroller Hynes draw attention to new research linking stem cells to cancer
Governor and Comptroller send letter to members of the General Assembly regarding the need for more IRMI grants

SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich and Comptroller Dan Hynes today sent a letter to all the members of the Illinois General Assembly to draw their attention to an article published in the New York Times on Tuesday regarding the discovery of stem cells in cancerous tumors.  Illinois was the first state in the Midwest, and only the fourth state in the nation, to commit public funds to the life-saving work of stem cell research through the Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute (IRMI). In his Fiscal Year 2007 budget, the Governor proposed another $100 million in state grants over the next five years.
 
“All of our lives have, in some way, been impacted by cancer, whether in the loss or struggle of a loved one, or even a personal battle against the disease. This opportunity is one that we cannot let pass us by. Through IRMI, researchers would be able to take a closer look at these stem cells identified in tumors and hopefully make significant strides forward in the battle against cancer,” wrote the Governor and the Comptroller.   
 
Stem cells are cells that have the potential to develop into many different types of healthy new cells in the body.  As described by the National Institutes of Health, they act like an internal repair system for the body. Stem cells can divide to replenish other cells for as long as the body is alive.  When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential to either remain a stem cell or become another type of cell like muscle cell, a red blood cell, or brain cell.
 
The New York Times article that the Governor and Comptroller sent to members of the General Assembly specifically discussed the discovery of stem or stemlike cells in a few different types of cancer. While there is debate about what exactly this could mean for the treatment of some or all types of cancer, scientists and doctors agree that more research is critical. The discoveries that result from that research could revolutionize the way that cancer is treated and ultimately cured.
 
Studying stem cells allows doctors to try to analyze how cells transform into other cells. Many of the most serious illnesses or birth defects are caused by problems in this process.  So, understanding the process better may help doctors discover how to prevent, treat or cure illnesses and conditions. Stem cells could also offer the possibility of making replacement cells and tissues to treat various diseases and conditions including Alzheimer’s, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. A better understanding of the process may help doctors discover how to prevent, treat or cure illnesses.
 
In July 2005, the Governor signed an Executive Order directing the Illinois Department of Public Health to create a program that will award $10 million in grants to medical research facilities for the development of treatments and cures. Proposals to fund this cutting edge medical research have stalled in states including Massachusetts, Maryland, and Missouri; Illinois joins New Jersey, California and Connecticut in providing public funding for stem cell research.
 
The Governor’s Executive Order dictated that the IRMI program will provide funding for stem cell research that involves adult, cord blood and embryonic stem cells. Medical and scientific accountability standards and rules will generally be consistent with those issued by the National Academies of Sciences and the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Public Health will issue an annual report that details IRMI’s operation.
 
The Executive Order also mandated that no funding will be authorized for research involving human cloning, nor will funding be awarded to anyone who purchases or sells embryonic or fetal tissue for research purposes, and time limits will be set for extracting cells from blastocysts.
 
 
- - -
 
Dear Member of the Illinois General Assembly:
 
We want to draw your attention to an article published in the New York Times on Tuesday about a possible link between stem cells and cancer. In it, members of the scientific community discuss recent research that has found stem or stemlike cells in a few different types of cancer. While there is debate about what this discovery could mean, scientists agree that more research is necessary to figure it out. The potential is enormous – if doctors are able to isolate cancer stem cells, it would completely revolutionize the way tumors are treated, and could prevent the recurrence of cancer after treatment entirely.
 
As you know, we have proposed providing $100 million in state grants over the next five years, beginning in Fiscal Year 2007, to fund stem cell research. These grants will be an offshoot of the Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute (IRMI) that we worked together to create over the summer. Every day, researchers are shedding light on the potential that stem cells have to treat or cure a variety of conditions that could now include cancer.
 
All of our lives have, in some way, been impacted by cancer, whether in the loss or struggle of a loved one, or even a personal battle against the disease. This opportunity is one that we cannot let pass us by. Through IRMI, researchers would be able to take a closer look at these stem cells identified in tumors and hopefully make significant strides forward in the battle against cancer.
 
We have attached the full article – we both hope that you will take the time to read it and see the possibility to help all those affected by cancer in the future. We look forward to working with you to make these grants a reality.
 
Sincerely,
 
Rod Blagojevich, Governor                                                                      
 
Daniel W. Hynes, Comptroller


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