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Issue Background

Cancer Research

ASTRO urges Congress and the NCI to prioritize funding for projects that leverage effective existing treatments, such as radiation therapy, and novel treatments to improve cure rates and patient outcomes.

In 2015, Congress passed and the President signed into law a $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including a 5.3 percent increase for the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for fiscal year 2016. This represents the largest increase in annual appropriations for the NIH since FY 2003.

In 2016, we are pleased that Congress and the Administration have committed to modernizing our research infrastructure by passing the 21st Century Cures Act, which provides $4.77 billion in new funding for NIH over 10 years, including funds to support the Cancer Moonshot and Precision Medicine initiatives. These innovations are critical to the future of our health care system and ASTRO stands ready to support these efforts.

The research community is on the cusp of discovering better treatment options for many cancers due to recent advances and successes in biomedical research. However, many Americans continue suffering from cancers without successful long-term therapeutic options. Individual advances limited to one technology or in one field have not produced the long-lasting, sustainable results needed.

It is increasingly evident that combination therapy — involving radiation therapy, surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and precision therapy — provides the best treatment options for many cancer patients. For example, recent findings indicate that radiation therapy delivered before immunotherapy significantly improves outcomes, increases survival and reduces toxic side effects in several cancers. Understanding how radiation drives or influences systemic changes in the human body is critical to understanding which patients are most appropriate for immunotherapy and other molecularly targeted treatments.

Recent investments in cancer research are improving the survival and quality-of-life for millions of Americans and their families and creating dramatic new opportunities for further research; however, the next round of breakthroughs will not be fully realized unless these investments are sustained. These innovations must not be interrupted by concerns that adequate funding will not be available. Federal funding for research in radiation oncology has been dwindling and remains well below the level of other therapeutic areas.