We Won’t Give Up
Today’s post is from our CEO, Susan Braun, and Scientific Advisory Board member, Dr. Robert Bast.
Sarah Kliff started her March 1st article in the Washington Post’s Work Blog with the line, “It is not hard to find sequester panic in Washington these days. Legislators are panicked. The President is panicked. Even the zoo animals are panicked – and if otters are panicking, we should probably panic too.” And then the first subtitle: The most panicked: Medical researchers.
She’s right. At The V Foundation for Cancer Research, we work every day with people doing cancer research. Physicians, PhDs, fellows, students, lab assistants. Most of them get significant research funding from the National Cancer Institute. The NC
I is our country’s sentinel of shared commitment, through our tax dollars, to fight the war against cancer.
A letter that The V Foundation sent as a part of the National Coalition for Cancer Research states, “Perhaps nowhere will the impact on cancer research be more devastating than in cuts to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) [caused by sequestration]. The NIH, the leading funder of biomedical research, will lose $1.6 billion this year alone, about 5.1 percent of its budget…” With sequestration, or “across the board” (read: not strategically considered) cuts, it will lose 8.2% annually in the years to come. How does this fit with the fact that cancer is quickly approaching heart disease as the number one killer of Americans, taking the lives of nearly 1,600 men and women every day. Were there a terrorist group taking this many lives each day in our country, I suspect the budget to stop them cold would not be subject to routine, across the board cuts. But that’s emotion speaking.
Back to the rational. The NCCR letter goes on to say, “It is especially troubling that Congress is considering such massive cuts at a time when advances in our understanding of cancer development are yielding potential treatments at a rate that is faster than we can study them. We are facing unprecedented opportunities to broaden our use of precision medicine in oncology care – where we are using treatments that target cancer development at the molecular level. These changes are altering the fundamental way in which we categorize and treat cancers. Furthermore, across-the-board spending cuts in non-defense discretionary spending will severely impact other programs associated with the National Cancer Program, including cancer registries, cancer prevention and early detection, cancer education and outreach, and cancer survivorship programs.” No. It simply isn’t rational. Not in a country that declared a war on cancer. Not in a country that cares about the health of its citizens.
The V Foundation continues to fund cutting edge cancer research, and we are re-doubling our efforts. We fill gaps and go where other funders do not. Yet if the base declines as significantly as it will under sequestration, we will all be set back at the most critical time in our efforts. We won’t panic. And we won’t give up – we won’t ever give up. We hope that our Government won’t give up, either.