Michigan congressional delegation hears case for continued federal funding of cancer research
With the National Cancer Institute Facing Budget Cuts, Michigan Cancer Leadership Urges Congress to Make Research Funding a Priority-added 08/24/2012
Ann Arbor - The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the American Cancer Society Great Lakes Division and the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center (UMCCC) briefed members of Michigan's congressional delegation today in Ann Arbor to encourage sustained federal funding for cancer research so that progress can continue against a disease that kills an estimated 1,500 people in America each day.
Earlier this year, President Obama's Fiscal Year 2013 budget proposal included cuts for research funding at the National Cancer Institute, at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and for prevention programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Congress is now considering a budget resolution to establish funding levels for next year.
"We are on the verge of making unprecedented progress that could change the way we prevent and treat cancer in this country, thanks in no small part to previous federal investments in cancer research," said David Pugach, director of federal relations, ACS CAN. "Any funding cuts to the National Institutes of Health will jeopardize the innovative research at local cancer centers that has resulted in the dramatic progress we have seen during the past 40 years against cancer."
More than 80% of federal funding for NIH is spent on biomedical research projects at local research facilities across the country. According to NIH, nearly $24 billion funded nearly 51,000 research grants in every state and virtually every congressional district across the country last year alone. In 2011, research institutions in Michigan received more than 1,500 grants totaling more than $655 million in federal funding from NIH.
"Federal investments at research facilities like the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center have created dramatic new opportunities in research, spurring innovation in vital areas such as genetics, immunotherapy and personalized medicine that will yield long-term economic and health benefits," said Max S. Wicha, M.D., director, UMCCC. "However, medical research is a marathon, not a sprint - countless small discoveries are often required before breakthroughs can be found, and the necessary funding to reach research's highest potential must be sustained over long periods of time in order to successfully deliver research from the labs to the doctor's office."
To highlight the impact of federal funding at UMCCC, Wicha discussed examples of groundbreaking projects at the Center that currently receive funding from NIH.
For example, researchers at UMCCC have initiated clinical trials to look at treatments targeting cancer stem cells, the small number of cells in a tumor that fuel its growth and spread. UMCCC researchers were first to identify these cells in breast, pancreatic, head and neck, and ovarian cancers. In addition, NIH-funded researchers discovered a genetic anomaly that occurs in half of prostate cancers and have now begun to target this marker in a clinical trial.
It takes nearly two decades on average to deliver a new drug or treatment from the lab to the doctor's office for patient use. Cancer centers across the country depend on federal grants from agencies such as NIH as their largest source of cancer research funding. UMCCC, for example, relied on more than $471 million in federal grants and contracts from NIH last year.
"Federal support of cancer research has put us on the verge of some incredible breakthroughs, and this work is going on here at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center and other research institutions around the country. We need to bring these potential discoveries to fruition because they will lead to treatments for some of the most deadly cancers," said Pugach. "I am convinced that members of Congress will support funding when they understand this research is benefiting their own constituents, and is being conducted right in their own backyard."
Cancer Research Supports State's EconomyFederally funded research has a positive economic impact on communities nationwide. In 2010, NIH grants yielded $68 billion in new economic activity and supported 487,000 jobs across 50 states and Washington, D.C. In Michigan, NIH awards support nearly 12,000 jobs.
Federal funding for medical research and cancer prevention programs has had a role in every major advance against this disease, resulting in 350 more lives saved from the disease per day than in 1991. Past federal investments have also put the scientific community on the verge of making groundbreaking new discoveries that could accelerate our progress and bring us closer to ending death and suffering from cancer.