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Celebrities Continue Battle For Colon Cancer Awareness

NEW YORK – Following up on Katie Couric’s much-discussed colonoscopy last year, and in an effort to continue calling attention to the country’s colon cancer death rate, the NCCRA is announcing an unprecedented awareness effort today involving over 25,000 chain pharmacy
locations nationwide.

“Almost every day I hear another story about someone whose life has been
changed by the power of awareness of this deadly disease,” said Couric.
“Whether it be from a doctor who has seen incredible increases in screening
appointments or a person who got screened and believes the test saved their
life, it is clear this campaign is making a difference — but there is still
so much more we can do. This past year has proven that these campaigns work.
My goal for the next year is for the campaign to reach more people, raise more
money for research, and ultimately save more lives.”

The NCCRA, formed by Katie Couric, Lilly Tartikoff, and the Entertainment
Industry Foundation is being joined by many other stars focused on the effort
to reduce deaths from colon cancer, the nation’s second-leading cause of
cancer-related deaths.

In addition to releasing a new celebrity PSA today, the NCCRA is
undertaking a major awareness effort this month as part of the March National
Awareness Month for Colorectal Cancer. Specifically, the NCCRA is:

  • Launching a major new addition to the field of colorectal cancer
    research — a Clinical Trials Resource Center for colorectal cancer.

  • Placing more than 7 million FREE educational brochures about colorectal
    cancer on more than 25,000 chain pharmacy counters nationwide. Nearly
    100 chains are participating in the free giveaway effort, sponsored by Merck
    & Co., Inc.

  • Partnering with more than 14,000 of those same chain pharmacy locations
    to undertake a significant fundraising campaign for colorectal cancer. Each
    of the 14,000 stores will ask all of their customers during the month of March
    if they would like to donate $1 to colon cancer research.

  • Partnering with more than 36 national magazines and regional newspapers
    to carry public service ads about colorectal cancer. The ads, which feature
    Couric’s image, also let people know where they can go for additional
    information about the disease.

  • Donating more than $2.5 million to its researchers, the eight members
    of its medical advisory board.

The new Clinical Trials Resource Center, sponsored by Pharmacia and
Pfizer, will seek to de-mystify clinical trial research, and serve to rapidly
advance science. Currently, it may take 8 months or longer to fill clinical
research trials, however, by using its power to reach large numbers of people,
the NCCRA hopes to reduce those waits down to several weeks or a month. Such
an effort would serve to allow trials to reach their conclusions more quickly,
and literally move science forward.
The Resource Center will serve as a database where interested persons can
register, then accredited researchers, after receiving approval from the
NCCRA’s prestigious Medical Advisory Board, would be allowed to search the
database to find patients which match their study criteria. Those researchers
would then contact the patients to determine their interest in enrolling in
their study.
“It is our mission to find non-toxic treatments and hopefully a cure for
colorectal cancer. Katie Couric, EIF and I will not stop working until we
reach that goal,” said NCCRA Co-Founder Lilly Tartikoff.

Celebrities involved in the NCCRA have directly experienced the tragedy of
colon cancer in their lives. Couric’s husband, 42-year-old NBC legal analyst
Jay Monahan, died of the disease in 1998. Emmy-Award winning actor Dennis
Franz, from ABC’s NYPD Blue, lost his father to colon cancer. TV’s Judge Judy
lost her mother to the disease, and San Francisco Giants Right Fielder,
Eric Davis was diagnosed with the disease two years ago.

Since the launch of the NCCRA one year ago, additional celebrities have
been struck by the tragedy of colon cancer, including Peanuts creator
Charles M. Schulz who died from colon cancer complications.

Prior to his death, Peanuts Creator Charles M. Schulz indicated his desire
to be involved with the NCCRA’s awareness campaign. Unfortunately, his
untimely death prevented him from filming a PSA for the NCCRA. However,
fulfilling one of his father’s last wishes, Schulz’s son Monte Schulz stars in
a PSA based upon his father’s final moving Peanuts comic strip. “He didn’t
choose to quit drawing Peanuts, colon cancer stole it away from him,” Monte
Schulz says in the emotionally moving ad, “then took his life.” The new,
animated version of Schulz’s last strip is being released by the NCCRA today,
joining its other awareness ads from Couric, Franz, Judge Judy and Eric Davis.

The NCCRA’s efforts to create awareness are working, according to research
conducted by the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA). In a
questionnaire after last year’s awareness efforts, the AGA found that out of
the 1,022 members of the AGA’s Clinical Practice Section responding to the
questionnaire, more than 3 out of 4 (75.5%) said they had noticed an increase
in the number of patients asking about colorectal cancer following the
awareness efforts.
“The awareness efforts of organizations such as the NCCRA and the AGA are
making a tremendous difference. People are paying attention and talking to
each other, their families and their doctors about colorectal cancer
prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Screening rates have increased — in
turn, lives are being saved,” said AGA physician Dr. Bernard Levin.
“This proves what many of us have known for a long time — that more
awareness for colorectal cancer really can make a difference and save lives,”
said NCCRA Co-Founder Lisa Paulsen, President and CEO of the Entertainment
Industry Foundation. “We have seen similar successes, both with fundraising
and awareness, in many of our other healthcare programs, including the
National Women’s Cancer Research Alliance.”
One of the major awareness efforts of the NCCRA this month is the
distribution of more than 7 million free brochures about colon cancer through
more than 25,000 pharmacies participating nationwide. Nearly every major
retail chain pharmacy is involved with the campaign. “Chain pharmacies and
their pharmacists are a highly accessible and valuable community health
resource, where the public can easily turn for medication advice and other
useful health information,” said Craig L. Fuller, President and CEO of the
National Association of Chain Drug Stores. “Creating awareness of colon
cancer and supporting NCCRA’s effort to find a cure reinforce pharmacy’s
community role.”
In addition to the sponsorship of the new Clinical Trials Resource Center,
sponsored by Pharmacia and Pfizer, the NCCRA has received continued generous
sponsorship from Aetna and the Aetna Foundation, one of its Founding Sponsors;
Merck & Co., Inc., which is sponsoring this year’s free educational brochure
program; Bloomingdale’s stores, which continue to sell the silver Caring Star
symbol for colon cancer awareness; InKine Pharmaceuticals, which recently
launched a new colon-cleansing tablet; and the National Association of Chain
Drug Stores, which has worked with its members to continue to provide
healthcare education to people at pharmacy counters nationwide.

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