President’s Budget a Stunning Jumpstart to “Moonshot” Initiative, Sustained Research Funding Still Needed

Statement by ASCO President Julie M. Vose, MD, MBA, FASCO
February 10, 2016

By making the “moonshot” initiative a centerpiece of his FY 2017 budget proposal, President Obama has taken a critical step in aligning the resources of the federal government to accelerate the development of new cancer treatments. In addition to allocating $195 million in FY 2016 to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support new cancer activities, the Administration requests $755 million in mandatory funding for NIH and the Food and Drug Administration for FY 2017. One notable omission from the President’s proposal, however, is a significant increase in NIH discretionary spending. ASCO urges predictable research funding through the traditional discretionary spending process. Mandatory funding should supplement—not supplant—reliable annual increases for the NIH that at least keep pace with the rate of biomedical research inflation.

The mandatory NIH funding increase would infuse additional federal resources into cancer prevention and vaccine development, early cancer detection, cancer immunotherapy and combination therapy development, genomic tumor analysis, pediatric cancer, and enhanced data sharing. ASCO applauds the Administration for working to break down data-sharing barriers and supporting the development of new tools to expand knowledge about cancer care, such as ASCO’s CancerLinQ rapid-learning system.

The President’s proposed budget also would establish a virtual FDA Oncology Center of Excellence that will centralize and leverage the knowledge of cancer drugs, biologics and devices within the agency to speed development of new combination drugs—an initiative that ASCO wholeheartedly supports. Companion diagnostics, a focus of this new entity, are critical to match patients with cancer to the specific precision medicine therapy that is the most likely to be beneficial. The Oncology Center of Excellence will elevate the importance of collaborative review and provide the structure to enable the FDA to focus its resources.

While we applaud the Administration in its “moonshot” initiative, ASCO is concerned about other aspects of the President’s proposal that could serve to undermine its goals.  Proposals to withdraw resources from the cancer care delivery system by reducing drug payments, specifically from 106 percent to 103 percent of average sales price—without overall payment reform—will jeopardize the very system needed to deliver on the promise of science.   

ASCO will continue to work closely with Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading the National Cancer Moonshot initiative, and with members of Congress as they commence the budget and appropriations process. We urge Congress to build on last year’s bipartisan support for federal research by providing FY 2017 funding levels that will speed advances in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment—and will reduce the human suffering and loss of life that cancer inflicts on millions of Americans each year.

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Note: In a letter to and meetings with Vice President Biden, ASCO helped inform the "Moon Shot" cancer initiative. ASCO joined the American Association for Cancer Research, the Association of American Cancer Institutes, 45 ASCO State Affiliates, and nearly 200 other organizations and cancer centers in thanking the Vice President for his leadership. Find more information about ASCO’s involvement in the “moonshot” initiative in the January 26 issue of the ASCO in Action Beat.