Cancer Organizations Visit Capitol Hill to Build Support for Cancer Research

May 16, 2012

ASCO is joining with four other cancer organizations this week for a collaborative cancer research advocacy day on Capitol Hill. During the May 17 Hill Day, over 80 cancer researchers, oncology nurses, clinicians, and advocates from 26 states will unite and speak directly to lawmakers about the importance of a sustained investment in the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, and the Food and Drug Administration.

ASCO, the American Association for Cancer Research, the Association of American Cancer Institutes, Friends of Cancer Research, and the Oncology Nursing Society will participate in the Hill Day. Advocates will be calling on Congress to approve a fiscal year 2013 budget that will fund NIH at $32.7 billion, including $5.36 billion for NCI, a level that all five organizations say is necessary to sustain scientific momentum.

Also, the organizations will recognize the contributions of two lawmakers by presenting them with The Cancer Leadership Award. Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) will be honored for their great passion and commitment to strengthening the nation’s efforts to eradicate cancer and improve public health.

Rep. DeGette, in addition to being a stalwart champion of the NIH in her own right, has demonstrated tremendous leadership in working to combat drug shortages, a growing crisis that is jeopardizing the care of cancer patients across the country. Rep. DeGette’s “Preserving Access to Life-Saving Medications Act” would among other things, require manufacturers to notify the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of any discontinuance or interruption in the production of a drug at least six months in advance.

Just this month Reps. DeGette and Bilbray showed great leadership by coming together to introduce the bipartisan “Breakthrough Therapy Act” in the House, now included in the House Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) reauthorization proposal, which aims to get the most promising new treatments to patients as quickly and safely as possible.

Rep. Bilbray has been an outspoken advocate for investment in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and has worked tirelessly to rally bipartisan support for cancer research and biomedical science. As co-chair of the Congressional Biomedical Research Caucus, Rep. Bilbray has been a strong advocate for moving clinical research from the bench to the bedside. Recently, he joined Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) in urging fellow lawmakers to sign a “Dear Colleague” letter to House appropriators requesting a FY2013 funding level of at least $32 billion for NIH.

Budget Cuts Looming

Support for biomedical research is especially crucial now, because NIH will be facing an additional 8% budget cut, amounting to $2.39 billion, in January 2013 due to the Budget Control Act. A cut of this size will threaten the future of biomedical research in this country.

A new report by Research!America, “Sequestration: Health Research at the Breaking Point,” demonstrates the damaging consequences of potential automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration, to the nation’s medical research enterprise and public health. The report provides examples of how the cuts would delay discoveries that could lead to new treatments and cures.

The $2.39 billion cut for NIH would be equivalent to nearly half the budget of the National Cancer Institute. NIH would be unable to fund about 2,300 grants if the cut were to take place.