NEW JERSEY STAR LEDGER
February 17, 2011)
BUDGET CUTS THREATEN CANCER BREAKTHROUGHS
By Robert Weiner, Patricia Berg and James Lewis
As the government keeps funding two wars and ongoing tax breaks, curing diseases like cancer is being threatened in the budget debates underway. In both the State of the Union and Budget Message, President Obama promised investment in biomedical research. However, House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) just announced the draft House budget has a $1 Billion cut in NIH funding. As in New Jersey, where Governor Christie is making "hard choices", the nation is almost schizophrenic between cuts and necessary programs. With the economy still in crisis, the private sector does not have the ability to make up the difference.
Research cuts could mean ongoing cancer deaths. One in two men and one in three women will develop cancer in their lifetime according to the National Cancer Institute. In 2010, there were 1.5 million new cancer cases and 570,000 deaths in the U.S. In just breast cancer alone, NCI estimated 209,060 new breast cancer patients and 40,230 deaths last year.
The good news is that thanks to successful laboratory research, a woman's risk of dying of breast cancer has now dropped 31 percent since 1989. Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institute of Health (NIH) told the National Press Club, "There is a direct line from NIH research to the life-span increases" in America. Despite these breakthroughs, the U.S. now ranks 49th in life expectancy, right above Taiwan, Kuwait, Cyprus, Cuba, Panama, and Costa Rica.
Just while such clear breakthroughs are being made--and with breast cancer still ranking as the number one fear for women -- now is no time to stop the train and cut funding.
New Jersey has one of the highest breast cancer rates in the country. According to the CDC, the state's breast cancer rate is 129.3 per 100,000 compared to the national rate of 120.4.
If government funding does drop or stalemate, cutting-edge researchers will have to seek even more funding from private foundations and corporations, trying to fill the void.
And they do try. For example, the Avon Foundation, one of the largest corporate-affiliated philanthropies contributing to breast cancer research, has donated over 700 million dollars to breast cancer education, research, and prevention since 1992, and over 175 million to research in the last decade. Avon expedites tests and advancement of cutting-edge discoveries with significant diagnosis and treatment potential like Beta Protein 1, a gene expressed in the tumors of 80% of women with breast cancer and 70% of men with prostate cancer. Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Revlon, and the Susan Love Research Foundation and Love/Army of Women, also help make up the difference. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has been "one of the key funding agencies" for the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the state's only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, In the world's wealthiest nation, with a government funding cut threatened, private industries are scrambling to fund live-saving research.
The future of the new national health care law, which provides free preventive care that detects cancer early when it is more curable and could catch Stage I cancers before they develop into Stage IV, is also under fire. The future is uncertain. We are in a budget-cutting spree.
Under President Clinton and under the Obama stimulus, NIH's budget doubled, but efforts to maintain the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and the political insistence on tax cuts are now creating a fear throughout the research field that medical research funding will be sliced. To keep the breakthroughs and research going strong, the public must support cancer research foundations -- and press Congress to halt its efforts to dry up federal research dollars. If we want to fight cancer, and win, there is no substitute for the federal catalyst.
Robert Weiner, from Paterson, NJ and graduate of Blair Academy, is a former White House spokesman and former Chief of Staff for the House Aging Committee and Health Subcommittee. Dr. Patricia Berg is director of a breast cancer research laboratory and Professor at George Washington University Medical Center. James Lewis is genomics specialist at Robert Weiner Associates.
Link to original: blog.nj.com/njv_guest_blog/2011/02/keep_federal_dollars_coming_fo.html