Doctor talks about renowned cancer center
by Elsie Hodnett
PELL CITY — Seven years ago, former Pell City Mayor Guin Robinson’s life was changed when his mother was diagnosed with cancer.

“It was seven years ago either Monday or Tuesday that my mother, Rebecca Gaither Boddie, was diagnosed with Renal Cell Carcinoma,” Robinson said at the Pell City Rotary Club meeting. “We started at MD Anderson (Cancer Center), but kept being led right back to Birmingham and UAB. Because of her faith, her doctors and UAB, she is alive today.”

Robinson said the University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Cancer Center benefited many other lives in Pell City and other places.

“The UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center is a national resource,” said Rotary guest speaker Dr. Ed Partridge, director of the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center. “I’m not sure the citizens of Pell City understand what a treasure they have only 50 miles away.”

Partridge said in 1972 the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center was one of eight designated cancer centers in the United States.

“Now we are one of 41 centers to have National Cancer Institute designation,” he said. “We obtained that by our high quality research across a number of areas.”

Partridge said the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center has 330 scientists and commissioned scientists.

“What distinguishes us is the breadth and depth of our research,” he said. “It allows you or your family to get innovative therapy one to two years before it is available at community cancer centers.”

Partridge said the 330 scientists compete vigorously for grants to do research, bringing $150 million into Alabama.

“The economic impact is incredible,” he said. “We are a place for groundbreaking research, a champion for public health, and a catalyst for economic growth.”

Partridge said UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center scientists have discovered unique treatments for several cancers, greatly improving the chances for survival.

“There are literally hundreds of discoveries that have improved and made a difference in the human condition,” he said.

Partridge said the death rates for cancer began to drop in 1991, dropping one-and-a-half to two percent per year since that time.

“Three hundred fifty fewer people will die in the U.S. today because of the discoveries we made,” he said. “And we could take that number from 350 to 1,000 by doing a handful of things.”

Partridge said one thing is tobacco control.

“Thirty percent of cancer deaths are tobacco related,” he said. “We have no statewide clean indoor air law, and the fourth lowest tax in the U.S. on tobacco.”

Partridge said an increase on the tobacco tax would help decrease the number of teenage smokers.

“Less than half a percent of people start smoking after age 21,” he said. “If we can increase the tax, it will drop the number of teens who start smoking.”

Partridge said lack of physical activity and an unhealthy diet are also a factor.

“The evidence is absolutely clear that 30 percent of cancers have as their cause obesity,” he said. “In 1971, 4 percent of children ages 6-11 were obese. Today, 20 percent are, a five-fold increase.”

Partridge said regular screenings are important, especially to detect breast, colorectal and cervical cancers.

“Only 58 percent of women in the U.S. with insurance get their mammograms on a timely basis,” he said. “The number is 50 percent for colorectal screenings and better on pap smears.”

Partridge said those numbers tie into the last factor, which is the segment of the population that does not get the highest quality care, usually due to lack of insurance.

“Our institution is very interested in getting screenings done properly, tobacco control and dedicated to ensuring all our citizens get the proper care they need,” he said.

Contact Elsie Hodnett at

© 2012