The War on Cancer at 50: Policy, Politics and Law

As we near the fiftieth anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s War on Cancer, declared on December 23, 1971, Solomon Center Faculty Director Abbe Gluck is co-editing a pathbreaking volume on five decades of the policy, politics, and law of cancer alongside Dr. Charlie Fuchs, Director of Yale Cancer Center. From the way the business of cancer operates and has changed over time; to the financial and regulatory incentives that drive care to certain providers; to disparities and inequalities in access to treatment; to public health; the special role of state governments; the history of federal interventions from Congress to the president; to the cutting-edge issues posed by new therapies and ever-increasing pricing—fighting cancer has been a challenge for many beyond scientists and doctors. The policy, political, and regulatory obstacles against—and levers for—fighting cancer are mostly overlooked. Our work fills that gap, in a peerless collection of multi-disciplinary contributions by the most important figures in their fields—including a Pulitzer Prize winner, two major cancer center heads, the recent head of the American Medical Association, the director of the Biden Cancer Moonshot, the former head of the FDA, and many more. These include:

  • Erin Aakhus (Associate Director, Hematology Oncology Fellowship Program and Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine, Penn Medicine)
  • Ed Benz (CEO Emeritus and former president of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Susan Smith Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School)
  • Otis Brawley (Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Oncology and Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University and former Chief Medical and Scientific Officer for the American Cancer Society)
  • Nicole Deziel (Assistant Professor of Epidemiology (Environmental Health Sciences), Yale School of Medicine)
  • Ezekiel J. Emanuel (the Vice Provost for Global Initiatives, the Diane v.S. Levy and Robert M. Levy University Professor, and Chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania)
  • Shelagh Foster (Director of Policy Development, American Society for Clinical Oncology)
  • Abby Friedman (Assistant Professor of Public Health (Health Policy), Yale School of Medicine)
  • Charles Fuchs (Director of Yale Cancer Center and Physician-in-Chief of Smilow Cancer Hospital)
  • Abbe Gluck (Professor of Law and founding Faculty Director of the Solomon Center for Health Law and Policy at Yale Law School; Professor of Medicine (General Medicine), Yale School of Medicine)
  • Nancy Goodman (Founder and Executive Director, Kids v Cancer)
  • Scott Gottlieb (23rd Commissioner of The Food and Drug Administration; Partner, New Enterprise Associates; Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute)
  • Cary Gross (Professor of Medicine (General Medicine) and Epidemiology (Chronic Diseases) as well as Director of the National Clinician Scholars Program at Yale School of Medicine)
  • Melinda Irwin (Associate Director (Population Sciences), and Co-Program Leader, Cancer Prevention and Control at Yale Cancer Center)
  • Kenneth Kehl (Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Medical Oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute)
  • Barbara McAneny (Immediate Past President of the American Medical Association and founder and CEO of the New Mexico Cancer Center)
  • Neal Meropol (Vice President, Head of Medical and Scientific Affairs, Flatiron Health)
  • Siddhartha Mukherjee (Assistant Professor of Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies)
  • Matthew Nguyen (Supreme Court Chambers Attorney, Supreme Court of California)
  • Linda Niccolai (Professor of Epidemiology (Microbial Diseases), Yale School of Medicine; Director, HPV Working Group at Yale)
  • Randy Oyer (Medical Director of the Oncology Program at Lancaster General Hospital)
  • Blase Polite (Associate Professor of Medicine; Deputy Section Chief for Clinical Operations and Executive Medical Director for Cancer Accountable Care at the University of Chicago)
  • Eugene Rusyn (Senior Fellow, Solomon Center for Health Law and Policy)
  • Charles Sawyers (Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Chair in Human Oncology and Pathogenesis; Chair, Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center)
  • Richard Schilsky (Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, American Society for Clinical Oncology)
  • Deborah Schrag (Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and Chief of the Division of Population Sciences and Medical Oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute)
  • Greg Simon (Former President of the Biden Cancer Initiative at the Biden Foundation; former Executive Director of the White House Cancer Moonshot Task Force)
  • David Solit (Director, Marie-Josée & Henry R. Kravis Center for Molecular Oncology, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center)
  • Lindsay Wiley (Professor of Law and Director, Health Law and Policy Program at American University Washington College of Law)
  • Eric Winer (Chief Clinical Strategy Officer, Chief of the Division of Women’s Cancers, and Director of the Breast Oncology Program in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute)
  • Robin Yabroff (Senior Scientific Director, Health Services Research, American Cancer Society)


The Policy, Politics & Law of Cancer Conference

On February 8-9, 2018, The Solomon Center for Health Law and Policy at Yale Law School, in collaboration with Smilow Cancer Hospital and Yale Cancer Center, held a major interdisciplinary conference addressing topics at the cutting edge of cancer policy.  This event brought together leading figures in the worlds of cancer care, research, regulation, and policymaking to assess the current state of cancer policy and discuss ways in which law can influence its development. 

Speakers examined the role Washington, D.C. plays in cancer research and treatment—through politics, legislation, and lobbying as well as by incentivizing and protecting research—and the ways cancer policy is shaped outside the federal government, including through private entities such as cancer centers and insurance companies, and through state governments.  The conference addressed special challenges in drug development and pricing as well as how cutting-edge advances in cancer treatment—including precision medicine, immunotherapy, and improvements in the genetic profiling of tumors—interface with existing and proposed government regulations.  Speakers also considered how disparities and inequalities impact cancer research, regulation, and treatment.


Palliative Care Medical-Legal Partnership at the Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale New Haven Hospital

Beyond our scholarly focus on the law and policy of cancer, the Solomon Center coordinates a Palliative Care Medical-Legal Partnership (MLP) to provide civil legal services to palliative care and cancer patients at the Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale New Haven Hospital (YNHH).

Students provide services within the health clinic setting, working closely with the social work team at Smilow to identify patients nearing the end of their life who need assistance to get their affairs in order. 

Under the supervision of Rebecca Iannantuoni, a partner at Day Pitney LLP, a Connecticut law firm that handles estate-planning matters,  students conduct intake interviews with clients and draft desired documents, such as wills, power-of-attorney agreements, and advanced health care directives, and they also work on real-estate transactions and guardianship issues.