Mariah Forster Olson, an ACS CAN Ambassador Constituent Team Lead (ACT Lead), traveled to Washington, D.C. this week to share her story as a childhood cancer survivor and to advocate on behalf of other patients and survivors during the 2019 Childhood Cancer Action Days.
Investing in Cures
After years of stalled and anemic funding levels for critical cancer research, Congress came together at the end of last year in a major way to pass the biggest funding increases for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Cancer Institute (NCI) in more than a decade. Champions, including Rep. Kevin Yoder from Kansas, acknowledged the importance of making cancer a national priority and rallied together to make sure resources were available to advance detection tests, treatments and therapies for a disease that is expected to kill nearly 600,000 people in America this year. Rep. Yoder has long made research funding a priority, and we were pleased to have him stand side by side with Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle and ACS CAN volunteers last spring to launch the #OneDegree campaign acknowledging the imperative need for research funding as everyone knows someone who has been diagnosed with cancer. I'm honored to have Rep. Yoder share his continued commitment to sustained and robust funding for research on the blog. By Congressman Kevin Yoder (R-KS)
Representing Kansans in the United States Congress, I have the opportunity each day to meet with people who need my help. A small business owner or a veteran, a teacher or a student, no matter which political party, I am their voice in the House. In my short time in elected office, perhaps no group of people have impacted me more than those who are counting on researchers to find a cure for a disease. From cancer, to Parkinson's, to Alzheimer's, or diabetes, there are over 10,000 known diseases in the world. We have cures for just 500 of them. Some diseases, like cancer or Alzheimer's, afflict millions of Americans each year. Others, like Fragile X, affect far fewer. With each visitor to my office, I hear the personal challenges, the struggles, the loss of life, the heartbreak. But, I also hear hope. Hope that a cure will be found; hope that researchers will make a breakthrough, like the parents of children with juvenile diabetes who are hoping for an artificial pancreas. That hope leads us to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the largest funder of research in the world to the tune of $30 billion or more annually. The NIH for example, spends more on cancer research in one year than the American Cancer Society has spent since its inception almost 50 years ago combined. In Washington, funding for the NIH is one line-item in our budget along with thousands of others fighting for attention. While many Americans have never heard of it, the NIH funds grants for research at world-class universities like the University of Kansas, where cutting edge ideas become clinical trials and then go on to save lives. As budget debates go, $30 billion is a big deal. Yet, it's really a drop in the bucket compared to potential savings. Medical costs associated with treating cancer are expected to top $200 billion annually by 2020. In contrast, we spent only $5.4 billion on cancer research at NIH in 2015. Even more staggering, medical costs associated with treating Alzheimer's are expected to top $1 trillion by 2050, yet we spent just $586 million in 2015 researching a cure. NIH spending is credited with breakthroughs leading to the mapping of the human genome, which has generated an economic impact of $796 billion, which is impressive considering Human Genome Project (HGP) spending amounted to $3.8 billion. Curing cancer or Alzheimer's would save our nation and our government trillions more over our lifetime. It's penny wise and pound foolish to not invest in the discovery of cures. That's why I've called for doubling the NIH budget over the next 10 years. Each dollar spent is one more step closer to a cure, and additional and stable resources will lead more bright minds to choose research as a career. Cancer knows no political party. It targets us all indiscriminately, affecting each community and cul de sac in our nation. It killed an estimated almost 600,000 Americans in 2015 alone, killing more Americans each year than any war. At the end of the year, I led a group of Republicans in the House to push for an increase in our investment in the NIH. Recently as the dust cleared, I was proud our work had paid off and the NIH received its biggest increase in 12 years at $2 billion. There is still much work to be done. But on this day, I'm proud to say to each neighbor, friend, and American: don't give up, remain hopeful, we have answered your call, resources are on the way, and maybe tomorrow we'll find a cure.