Michigan congressional delegation hears case for continued federal funding of cancer research

Date: 
08/24/2012 - 3:00pm

With the National Cancer Institute Facing Budget Cuts, Michigan Cancer Leadership Urges Congress to Make Research Funding a Priority

Written by Nicole Fawcett and Gary McMullen, ACS: Gary.McMullen@cancer.org, 517-664-1354.

Ann Arbor - The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the American Cancer Society Great Lakes Division and the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center (UMCCC) briefed members of Michigan's congressional delegation today in Ann Arbor to encourage sustained federal funding for cancer research so that progress can continue against a disease that kills an estimated 1,500 people in America each day.

Max Wicha, M.D.

Max S. Wicha, M.D., director of the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center

Earlier this year, President Obama's Fiscal Year 2013 budget proposal included cuts for research funding at the National Cancer Institute, at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and for prevention programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Congress is now considering a budget resolution to establish funding levels for next year.

"We are on the verge of making unprecedented progress that could change the way we prevent and treat cancer in this country, thanks in no small part to previous federal investments in cancer research," said David Pugach, director of federal relations, ACS CAN. "Any funding cuts to the National Institutes of Health will jeopardize the innovative research at local cancer centers that has resulted in the dramatic progress we have seen during the past 40 years against cancer."

More than 80% of federal funding for NIH is spent on biomedical research projects at local research facilities across the country. According to NIH, nearly $24 billion funded nearly 51,000 research grants in every state and virtually every congressional district across the country last year alone. In 2011, research institutions in Michigan received more than 1,500 grants totaling more than $655 million in federal funding from NIH.

"Federal investments at research facilities like the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center have created dramatic new opportunities in research, spurring innovation in vital areas such as genetics, immunotherapy and personalized medicine that will yield long-term economic and health benefits," said Max S. Wicha, M.D., director, UMCCC. "However, medical research is a marathon, not a sprint - countless small discoveries are often required before breakthroughs can be found, and the necessary funding to reach research's highest potential must be sustained over long periods of time in order to successfully deliver research from the labs to the doctor's office."

To highlight the impact of federal funding at UMCCC, Wicha discussed examples of groundbreaking projects at the Center that currently receive funding from NIH.

For example, researchers at UMCCC have initiated clinical trials to look at treatments targeting cancer stem cells, the small number of cells in a tumor that fuel its growth and spread. UMCCC researchers were first to identify these cells in breast, pancreatic, head and neck, and ovarian cancers. In addition, NIH-funded researchers discovered a genetic anomaly that occurs in half of prostate cancers and have now begun to target this marker in a clinical trial.

It takes nearly two decades on average to deliver a new drug or treatment from the lab to the doctor's office for patient use. Cancer centers across the country depend on federal grants from agencies such as NIH as their largest source of cancer research funding. UMCCC, for example, relied on more than $471 million in federal grants and contracts from NIH last year.

"Federal support of cancer research has put us on the verge of some incredible breakthroughs, and this work is going on here at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center and other research institutions around the country. We need to bring these potential discoveries to fruition because they will lead to treatments for some of the most deadly cancers," said Pugach. "I am convinced that members of Congress will support funding when they understand this research is benefiting their own constituents, and is being conducted right in their own backyard."

Cancer Research Supports State's Economy

Federally funded research has a positive economic impact on communities nationwide. In 2010, NIH grants yielded $68 billion in new economic activity and supported 487,000 jobs across 50 states and Washington, D.C. In Michigan, NIH awards support nearly 12,000 jobs.

Federal funding for medical research and cancer prevention programs has had a role in every major advance against this disease, resulting in 350 more lives saved from the disease per day than in 1991. Past federal investments have also put the scientific community on the verge of making groundbreaking new discoveries that could accelerate our progress and bring us closer to ending death and suffering from cancer.

About ACS CAN

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard. For more information, visit www.acscan.org.

About the American Cancer Society

The American Cancer Society combines an unyielding passion with nearly a century of experience to save lives and end suffering from cancer. As a global grassroots force of more than three million volunteers, we fight for every birthday threatened by every cancer in every community. We save lives by helping people stay well by preventing cancer or detecting it early; helping people get well by being there for them during and after a cancer diagnosis; by finding cures through investment in groundbreaking discovery; and by fighting back by rallying lawmakers to pass laws to defeat cancer and by rallying communities worldwide to join the fight. As the nation's largest non-governmental investor in cancer research, contributing about $3.4 billion, we turn what we know about cancer into what we do. As a result, more than 11 million people in America who have had cancer and countless more who have avoided it will be celebrating birthdays this year. To learn more about us or to get help, call us any time, day or night, at 1-800-227-2345 or visit cancer.org.

About the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center

The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center has more than 400 faculty members delivering the highest quality, compassionate care to today's patients and researching ways to improve the treatments of tomorrow. It's our mission: the conquest of cancer through innovation and collaboration. The U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center is among the top-ranked national cancer programs for both research and patient care. It is one of 41 centers designated "comprehensive" by the National Cancer Institute and one of 21 institutions that make up the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, which sets national guidelines for consistent, high-quality and cost-effective cancer care.

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