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Armstrong Champions Cancer Research At Capitol

AUSTIN (AP) _ Seven-time Tour de France winner and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong put his celebrity power behind a late push to get a $3 billion cancer research referendum before Texas voters.

Legislation to create the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas has already passed in the state House of Representatives but is bumping up against Senate deadlines before the session ends May 28.

If approved by the Senate, the issue would go to the voters on the November statewide ballot.

Armstrong, who recovered from testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain before winning seven Tour de France titles from 1999-2006, has become a strong advocate for cancer research since his retirement.

``If we get this done, I can honestly say it will be the greatest thing I've ever done with my work within cancer, which makes it one of the greatest things I've done in my life,'' Armstrong said at a Capitol news conference.

The cyclist and his Lance Armstrong Foundation, along with the American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen breast cancer foundation, have been involved in the idea since it was born early this year.

But with the bills still waiting for a Senate, Armstrong's appearance at the Capitol signified a late push to rally support. He wore his trademark yellow Livestrong yellow wristband.

``This can't be viewed as an expense,'' Armstrong said. ``It has to be viewed as an investment.''

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.

An estimated 35,000 Texans die of cancer every year, and 85,000 new cases are diagnosed.

``We are going to find a cure for cancer,'' said Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville.

Cancer research has traditionally been funded by the federal government. 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 toward more aggressively funding their own initiatives. In 2004, California voters approved a plan to spend about $300 million a year for the next decade on stem cell research.
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