DALLAS (AP) - Texas will create a cancer research institute under a bill signed Wednesday by Gov. Rick Perry, but voters still must approve a constitutional amendment giving $3 billion to fund its mission of finding a cure.
Flanked by cancer survivor Lance Armstrong, Perry signed the bill creating the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, putting the state among a handful aggressively pursuing research that has traditionally been handled by the federal government.
In November, voters will decide whether to approve a constitutional amendment that would allow the state to issue up to $300 million a year in bonds to be distributed by the institute.
“We set our sights high, and that’s appropriate for Texas,” said Perry, who signed the bill at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. “And I set my sights on the day when we talk about cancer the same way we talk about polio.”
An estimated 35,000 Texans die of cancer every year, and 85,000 new cases are diagnosed.
Before the bill emerged from the Legislature, some lawmakers questioned issuing billions in bonds, which could accumulate billions in interest debt. But the measure still easily passed the Senate and House.
The National Cancer Institute spent about $4.7 billion on research in the 2006 fiscal year in its own labs and through grants and agreements with universities, hospitals, research foundations and private businesses.
In recent years, however, a few states have moved more toward funding their own research initiatives. In 2004, California voters approved a plan to spend about $300 million a year for the next decade on stem cell research.
Armstrong, who recovered from testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain before winning seven consecutive Tour de France cycling races, said supporters must now make sure that Texas voters approve the amendment Nov. 6.
“There’s nothing proprietary here,” Armstrong said. “Whatever we invent, whatever we cure is going to cure the rest of the world.”
The plan would allow the state to issue up to $300 million a year in general obligation bonds, which the research institute would use to make grants to public or private institutions, state universities and medical schools.
State Rep. Jim Keffer, the Eastland Republican who sponsored the constitutional amendment, reminded supporters there was one more hurdle to clear before the money becomes available.
“Please don’t think this is going to be a slam dunk in November,” Keffer said.
Cancer has been a priority for Perry, though not all his goals made it through the session. His proposal to sell the Texas Lottery and use some of the money for cancer research landed with a thud in the Legislature, which also blocked his mandate that would have required Texas girls to get vaccinated against the human papilloma virus. Certain strains of HPV cause most cases of cervical cancer.
The cancer research bill is HB14.