Earlier this month, during the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology(ASCO) being held in Chicago from may 31 – June 4, 2013, ASCO president Sandra M. Swain, MD, FACP (photo), recognized the significant progress toward modernizing clinical cancer research but also warned that advances against cancer could stagnate as a result of recent cuts to U.S. biomedical research funding.

?Our federally funded clinical trials system has achieved remarkable advances that have improved survival and quality of life for millions of people with cancer, but this progress is occurring under the cloud of federal budget slashing,? Swain warned. ?Draconian cuts to biomedical research will slow our progress at the moment of greatest scientific potential and increasing worldwide need.?

When adjusted for inflation, funding for the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) is now at its lowest level since 2001.

Today, more than 7.6 million people worldwide will die from cancer this year alone, and it?s predicted that by 2030, this number will reach more than 12 million. Yet funding, when adjusted for inflation, for the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) is now at its lowest level since 2001, a drastic reduction in the nation?s historical commitment to biomedical research.In fact, over the last decade, NIH has lost approximately 20% of its purchasing power because funding has not kept pace with the rate of medical inflation. Added to that, the NCI budget for FY 2013 was cut by 5.8%, largely as a result of sequestration. For the nation’s deadliest cancers, such as pancreatic and lung cancer, the prolonged effects of sequestration over the next decade could be extremely detrimental.


The American Society of Clinical Oncology has called on the U.S. Congress to maintain a strong commitment to federally funded research with a recommended NIH budget of $32 billion for Fiscal Year 2014. Robust funding is critical to ensure that new scientific breakthroughs will continue to yield advances in patient survival and Quality of Life (QoL).

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A permanent fix needed
Advocates from the Pancreatic Cancer Action Networkand other advocacy groups have also called on Congress to support a permanent fix to sequestration and provide sustained adequate funding for the NIH and NCI.

“While we are extremely grateful to Congress for passing the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act in 2012 and to President Obama for signing the bill into law on January 2, 2013, our work is far from over. Unfortunately, due to the sequestration cuts to NCI and NIH, the progress made possible by passing this bill is currently in jeopardy,” said Julie Fleshman, president and CEO of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. “Continued strong support of federal funding for medical research is not only critical to curing diseases like pancreatic cancer, but is also important for the continued growth of our economy. … We will tell Congress to issue a cease and desist order on the cuts to our nation’s medical research enterprise so that we can get back to the business of saving lives.”

“The NIH has been fighting the war against cancer with a shrinking budget for the last decade. If current funding trends continue over the next decade, we have little hope to see true progress against diseases like pancreatic cancer,” added Fleshman. “Furthermore, it will be very difficult to leverage the opportunities that come out of the scientific frameworks developed as a result of the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act unless sustained adequate funding is provided to the NIH and NCI. We must save medical research funding that saves lives.”

Photo:ASCO President Sandra M. Swain, MD, FACP. Photo Courtesy: ASCO.

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