On Capitol Hill, Grassroots Lobby Day Puts Cancer Research Funding Front and Center

May 21, 2019
OVAC volunteers meet with Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)

OVAC volunteers meet with Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).

On May 13, ASCO members joined more than 100 volunteers representing One Voice Against Cancer (OVAC) on Capitol Hill for a grassroots lobby day in support of federal research funding. OVAC is a coalition of organizations representing cancer researchers, physicians, and nurses – as well as patients, survivors, and their families – focused on long-term, sustained federal funding for cancer research and prevention.

Over the course of the day, participants met with Members of Congress and presented the following four requests:

  1. Raise Budget Caps: If Congress does not raise the budget caps, the nondefense discretionary budget will drop by $55 billion for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, which would have a catastrophic effect on all government organizations currently engaged in cancer research, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s (CDC) Cancer Prevention and Control programs.
  2. Support $41.6 Billion for NIH: While Congress has shown bipartisan support in increasing funding to the NIH over the last several years, more funding for the NIH is needed to continue momentum and make progress against cancer.
  3. Support $6.5 Billion Funding Level for NCI: Even including the Cancer Moonshot Initiative, NCI’s budget is 15.6% ($1.1 billion) lower than what it would have been if funding had kept pace with biomedical inflation. NCI’s modest funding increases over the last few years have not kept up with the growing number of research grants and applications it receives. The proposed funding level of $6.5 billion would bring the budget back in line with the current rate of inflation.
  4. Provide $555 Million for the CDC, Including $70 Million for Cancer Registries: Cancer Registries provide cancer surveillance, identify emerging trends, and illustrate both the impact of early detection and that of treatment advances on cancer outcomes. However, the current system used to capture data is outdated, and additional funding is needed to reduce the 24-month data lag in this system by implementing a cloud-based system. By doing this, data can be collected in real time, allowing researchers to identify trends as they happen, and by extension improve cancer research, public health interventions, and treatment protocols.

Three ASCO volunteers participated in the OVAC Grassroots Lobby Day, including Cancer Survivorship Committee and Health Disparities Committee member Michael T. Halpern MD, PhD, and ASCO’s Health Policy fellows Sheetal Kircher, MD, and Trevor Royce, MS, MD, MPH.

ASCO has been a consistent advocate for federal funding for cancer research, and recently submitted testimony to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees about the importance of increasing the budget for the NIH and NCI.

For more information about ASCO’s policy priorities, bookmark ASCO in Action and review the Society’s policy statements.