Chris Hansen, ACS CAN President

ACS CAN President Lisa Lacasse shares her views on the impact of advocacy on the cancer fight.

Share

Budget Deal Gives Congress Chance to Prioritize Cancer Research and Prevention

December 19, 2013

I believe Congress has been presented with a critical opportunity to make an impact in the fight against cancer. You might remember that to end the government shutdown back in October, Congress agreed to form a bipartisan budget committee to come up with a long-term plan for addressing the deficit. The party caucuses chose Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) to lead that committee, and they succeeded in coming to an agreement last week.

The budget agreement would restore more than $22 billion that was cut through the across-the-board reductions known as the budget sequester. This agreement is an important first step toward seeing Congress return to a constructive process of setting budget priorities.

House and Senate appropriators will now decide how to spend that money on individual programs. With more than 580,000 Americans are expected to die from cancer this year Š—– 1,500 each day Š—– prioritizing cancer research and prevention programs by restoring funding to the NIH, NCI and CDC should be a no-brainer. ACS CAN calls on Congress to restore the funding for cancer research and prevention that was lost through sequestration.

To understand the importance of restoring research funding, it is important to remember the harm caused by the sequester this past year and the continued impact this will have if this budget process doesnŠ—'t get back on track.

The sequester cut more than $1.5 billion from the NIH budget, including $250 million from the NCI budget, compromising past progress in biomedical research and jeopardizing future discovery, forcing researchers to limit the scope of their projects, close their labs and in some cases leave the field altogether. I had the chance recently to speak with some of the directors of the nationŠ—'s leading cancer centers about what specific consequences they are seeing as a result of the sequester. HereŠ—'s what they told me:

  • Š—“[The sequester] causes the grant review process to become more arbitrary and IŠ—'m afraid that this will continue to degrade our ability to identify those potentially high-risk, high-reward, innovative grants that will truly transform cancer medicine as weŠ—'ve seen it.Š— Š—– Dr. Chi Dang, director of the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Š—“ThereŠ—'s such an opportunity to offer clinical trials to patients with prostate cancer, lung cancer, brain tumors and other diseases, that thereŠ—'s an opportunity to do more than the current sequestered budget allows. So there has to be a further prioritization, which really means some of those trials that could offer hope to our patients and our families are not able to be provided by our physicians in Georgia and across the country.Š— Š—– Dr. Walter Curran, director of the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University
  • Š—“One tangible example of sequestration is a major contract we haveŠ—_ [that has] allowed us to put 250 patients a year on a novel therapy of drugs that were being developed and offered by the NCI. Now, as a result of sequestration, itŠ—'s been capped by NCI at 100 patients per year. So, that is a 60 percent decrease, just from this one particular trial we are doing.Š— Š—– Dr. Thomas Sellers, director of the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida

The budget proposal sets the total spending levels for the next two years, which will give researchers some measure of predictability that is critical to their ability to plan their projects. The funding will also help to reinvigorate economic activity across the country, as 80 percent of NIH funding goes to research institutions in every state.

More than anything, I want to see fewer people dying from cancer.ξ Accomplishing this requires a sustained commitment to make funding for cancer research and prevention a top priority in the budget, not just now in FY 2014, but as we look ahead to next year and the year after that.

You can see the opportunity Congress has in front of them. ACS CAN is calling on Congress to prioritize a disease that will impact 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women by restoring funding for cancer research and prevention so as to reverse the sequesterŠ—'s effects on our nationŠ—'s leading cancer centers and maximize our progress in the fight to defeat this disease.