View the webinar at www.preventcancerwebcast.org.
Moderator Susan Dentzer, Senior Adviser to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, opened the webcast by explaining that the impact of the 2011 sequestration has been devastating to the world of cancer research. Because of the spending cuts, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was forced to cut $1.55 billion from its FY 2013 budget, bringing about severe limitations to the programs, projects, and activities it supports. Further, cancer research funding as a share of the overall NIH budget has declined, while the scientific and public health need continues to rise.
Dr. Richard Schilsky, Chief Medical Officer at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), noted that, with a projected 45 percent increase in cancer cases by 2030, these decreases to funding for cancer research are dangerous. He stated that over 75 percent of research organizations have deemed these cuts devastating to their research and 35 percent of them have had to lay off staff.
Chip Kennett, a patient advocate (and former Congressional staffer) who was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2012, credited cancer research with not only saving his life, but allowing him to maintain the quality of life that is so important for himself and his family, as well as other cancer patients.. Mr. Kennett’s particular cancer, while rare, is the result of a genetic malformation similar to that found in other rare cancers, including childhood cancers. Studies to understand it would undoubtedly be worthwhile. However, limits in funding force researchers to focus on cancers that are more widespread.
Dr. George Weiner, Director of the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa and President-elect of the Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI), outlined some of the steps currently being taken in an attempt to help offset the impact of these cuts. These include partnering with fellow researchers, seeking funding from sources besides the NIH, and developing more efficient clinical designs. However, despite these efforts, the impact of these cuts continues. According to Dr. Weiner, one such example is “the loss of the next generation of researchers.” As young scientists observe the difficulties their colleagues are having in obtaining funding, they are heading into fields with more stability.
Each of the panelists focused on the importance of advocacy because constituents, particularly those with a personal cancer connection, are the strongest advocates for life-saving discovery and translational research. Cancer is a formidable opponent and only through the sustained efforts from passionate advocates including survivors and their loved ones, healthcare and policy professionals, and other relevant stakeholders, will significant investments in our federal medical research enterprise be realized.
“What is extremely concerning is the loss of the next generation of researchers.” – Dr. George Weiner
“If it wasn’t for the money put into research and the trials and the doctors and the researchers I don’t know if I’d be sitting here today and I know I wouldn’t have the quality of life I’ve had for the last 20 months.” – Chip Kennett
“We will continue to do what we do and push frontiers of cancer research to improve our ability to prevent and treat cancer but we have to realize that the speed of that progress is proportional to our investment.” – Dr. George Weiner
“Advocacy works. When sequestration came in and impacted air travel and there were delays in air travel, it was fixed in about 48 hours because of the uproar. If we had the same type of attention paid to cancer research, we would see this fixed.” – Dr. George Weiner
“Nobody’s against cancer research—what we need to do is make sure cancer research is a priority.” – Dr. George Weiner
“Cancer prevention research is valuable.”– Dr. George Weiner
“Poverty is a carcinogen. People with fewer resources due to lifestyle issues and access to care issues—their incidence of cancer and death rate of cancer are higher.” – Dr. George Weiner
“We have to be careful that we don’t restrict cancer research or constrain it too narrowly because we don’t know where the next breakthrough is coming from.”
– Dr. Richard Schilsky
“As a patient, when you realize that funding is what’s holding up lifesaving trials, it’s frustrating because you will do anything to make yourself better or help your loved one feel better.” – Chip Kennett