AACR Urges Congress to Increase Funding for the NIH and NCI

October 2011, Vol 2, No 6 - Health Policy

In September 2011, the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) issued a new report, “AACR Cancer Progress Report 2011” (www.aacr.org/Uploads/Document Re pository/2011CPR/2011_AACR_CPR_ Text_web.pdf) on the current state of cancer research and the implications of recent cuts in funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI). These cuts in NIH and NCI funding are already adversely affecting the progress made in cancer research in the United States.

The report highlights the many successes and advances made in cancer care since the National Cancer Act of 1971 was signed into law, but warns Congress that current trends in cutting funding for research could lead to serious consequences.

“The declining NIH and NCI budgets are creating an environment where researchers face numerous disincentives to continue or even enter into research careers in the first place,” say the authors of the report. “These disincentives are resulting in a loss of taxpayerfunded training and are ad versely affecting the nation’s ability to maintain an optimal workforce for cancer research and to generate innovative scientific ideas for future implementation.”

The report, which is signed by many cancer researchers and experts, states that since 2003, “appropriations for the NIH and NCI budget have remained essentially flat. Therefore, the NIH has lost about 13% of its purchasing power over the last 8 years due to inflation and the increasing costs of research and technology.”

It is estimated that at least 50% of cancers in the United States are preventable, the report notes, which underscores the need for invigorated research to improve prevention strategies and mitigate many of the preventable causes of cancer, such as exposure to environmental carcinogens, radiation exposure, and infectious diseases.

As a result of previous scientific research, “about 12 million cancer survivors are alive in the US today, and 15% of these cancer survivors were diagnosed more than 20 years ago.” To maintain that level of scientific successes in cancer, the AACR recommends that “Congress provide the NIH and NCI with annual budget increases of at least 5% above the biomedical inflation rate.” Indeed, such level “of sustained support will enable the future scientific advances needed to seize today’s scientific momentum…save countless lives, and spur innovation.”

Some of the current 32 cancer drugs available in the United States have transformed cancer “from a death sentence into a chronic condition,” according to the report.