AACI Thanks House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform for Supporting Federally Funded Cancer Research

This morning, Mary Beckerle, PhD, Chief Executive Officer and Director of Huntsman Cancer Institute University of Utah, Elizabeth Jaffee, MD, Deputy Director, Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University, Tyler Jacks, PhD, Director, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Mrs. Tammi Carr, the mother of Chad Carr, a child who suffered from Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, testified before the Full House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to discuss federally funded cancer research.

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Dr. Mary Beckerle testifies on Capitol Hill about the federal government’s irreplaceable role in supporting cancer research.

AACI thanks Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and members of the Committee for welcoming the witnesses and learning about the importance of federally funded cancer research.

In his opening remarks, Chairman Chaffetz noted his own family’s experience with cancer as his mother succumbed to breast cancer after a ten-year fight.  He said he objected to the president’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2018 for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Ranking Member Cummings said there are few investments more significant than those made in biomedical research; that the work of the NIH is transformational and has the power to turn ideas into cures.  He noted research generates economic activity in every state across the country and allows the U.S. to grow the science and technology workforce to the benefit of individuals across the world.

During her testimony, Dr. Beckerle noted the federal government has an unmatched and irreplaceable role in supporting cancer research, saying “no other public, corporate, or charitable entity is able to provide the broad and sustained investment in research necessary to enable successes.”

For her part, Dr. Jaffee noted the state of science and medicine are at a crossroads.  She said the cancer community is in the middle of a revolution, turning decades of government investment into real treatments that are saving lives, yet the instability of government funding for research without significant increases in the past decade has created a crisis as young scientists are turning elsewhere for positions outside academia or outside the U.S. altogether. Dr. Jaffee said the U.S. stands to lose the brightest minds.

Dr. Jacks acknowledged the investments in the NIH and NCI have been the foundation of progress against cancer and have allowed the U.S. to enter a new era.  He said the research is an effective use of taxpayer dollars and the bulk of the support in universities and other laboratories comes from the NIH.

Mrs. Carr suggested rather than decreasing the NIH budget, Congress should provide increases in order to help patients like her son, Chad.  Many members of the Committee agreed with Mrs. Carr and expressed their disapproval of the president’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2018.

At a time when funding for biomedical research is under threat, AACI expresses its gratitude to Chairman Chaffetz, Ranking Member Cummings, and other members of the Committee for showing their support for federally funded cancer research.  Stable, predictable funds for the NIH and NCI are vital to making progress in cancer prevention and advancing cancer research and treatment to benefit all patients.

AACI continues to urge members of Congress to reject the president’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2018 and asks that they complete a spending package for the NIH for Fiscal Year 2017 in the amount approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee last year, bringing the recommended funding level for the NIH in Fiscal Year 2017 to $34.1 billion and to provide at least $2 billion above that for Fiscal Year 2018.

Watch the entire hearing here.

Jennifer W. Pegher, Director, Government Relations

AACI Strongly Opposes President’s Cuts to NIH in Fiscal Year 2018 “Skinny Budget”

The Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI) expresses opposition to President Donald Trump’s proposed “skinny budget” for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018. The President’s recommendation would cut funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by $6 billion, or approximately 19 percent, which translates to a cut of nearly $1 billion in funding to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). These drastic cuts to the NIH and NCI would significantly reduce each budget to the equivalent of FY 2002 funding levels.white-house

While cancer centers were encouraged by the funding stream included in the 21st Century Cures Act, this fund is not a sufficient alternative to appropriations for the NIH and NCI and would not cover the extreme budget reductions proposed in the “skinny budget.” Additionally, the federal government has yet to fund the NIH and NCI for FY 2017, as it continues to operate at FY 2016 levels.

AACI Executive Director Barbara Duffy Stewart, MPH, said in response to the President’s proposal, “Federal investments in cancer research have led to advancements in our understanding of cancer and groundbreaking research that has the potential to accelerate progress faster than ever before. A severely reduced biomedical research budget would diminish academic cancer centers’ ability to develop and discover breakthrough therapies and treatments for patients, and potentially sideline promising research projects that are still under review for funding.”

AACI institutions house more than 20,000 scientific, clinical and public health investigators who collaborate in order to translate research findings into new approaches to preventing and treating cancer, but there is more to be done to make continued progress. These institutions are beacons of discovery and are largely funded by the NIH and NCI, which rely on stable and predictable federal funding to invest in groundbreaking cancer research.

Stewart added, “AACI cancer centers are at the forefront of developing new methods for the prevention and detection of cancers and the delivery of high quality cancer care. The proposed cuts to the NIH and NCI budget for FY 2018 are unacceptable. We join our colleagues in the biomedical research community in urging members of Congress to reject President Trump’s proposed cuts to NIH and provide a robust federal investment to the NIH and NCI for not only the current Fiscal Year, but for FY 2018 and beyond.”

Hill Day Advocates Highlight Importance of NIH/NCI Funding and Moonshot Initiative

Nearly 80 cancer center directors, physicians, researchers, and patient advocates representing 25 states and the District of Columbia visited Capitol Hill on May 12 to urge legislators to provide stable, predictable support for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Fiscal Year 2017.  The event allowed advocates to participate in over 130 meetings with members of Congress and their staff, including leadership and key committee staff.

AACR Hill Day Reception [INITIALS] 20160511

L to R: AACR President Nancy Davidson, MD; Rep. Kathy Castor; ASCO President Julie Vose, MD, MBA, FASCO;  and AACI President George Weiner, MD, during the Hill Day reception held at Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, May 11, 2016.  (Photo: Alan Lessig)

Hill Day was co-hosted by AACI, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).  The event kicked off with a reception the evening prior to Hill Day.  U.S. Representatives Kathy Castor (D-FL) and Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN) were recognized for their outstanding support for cancer research.

Both members of Congress attended the reception to accept their awards and praised the work cancer centers and cancer researchers are doing to transform the discovery and delivery of care.  Rep. Castor applauded Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, FL for its commitment to cancer care, while Rep. Fleischmann explained how cancer had impacted his own family.  Rep. David Price (D-NC) also attended and offered remarks as well, describing the lasting impression that patient advocates have left on him.

AACI, AACR, and ASCO advocates hit Capitol Hill on Thursday, thanking members of Congress for providing the NIH with a $2 billion increase in FY 2016 and asked that Congress provide at least $34.5 billion for the NIH in FY 2017.  Hill Day participants also expressed support for Vice President Joe Biden’s National Cancer Moonshot Initiative, urging legislators to consider a $680 million increase for the NCI to initiate the effort.

AACR Hill Day Reception [INITIALS] 20160511

L to R: AACI President George Weiner, MD; Bill Dalton, MD; Rep. Chuck Fleischmann; ASCO President Julie Vose, MD; and AACR President Nancy E. Davidson. (Photo: Alan Lessig)

The visits to Capitol Hill were well-received, with many members of Congress voicing support for the FY 2017 appropriations request and others agreeing to co-sponsor National Cancer Research Month resolutions led by Reps. Kevin Yoder (R-KS) and Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) and U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA).

May is National Cancer Research Month.  Please contact Jennifer Pegher (jen@aaci-cancer.org) if your cancer center would like to support the National Cancer Research Month resolutions.

Jennifer W. Pegher, AACI Government Relations Manager

U.S. Representatives Castor, Fleischmann to be Honored as part of Capitol Hill Day Advocacy for Cancer Research Funding

The Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI), the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) will honor Representatives Kathy Castor (D-FL) and Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN) for their outstanding leadership on behalf of cancer research at a reception on May 11. On May 12, cancer researchers, physicians, survivors, patient advocates, and cancer center directors associated with AACI, AACR, and ASCO will call on Congress to provide robust, sustained, and predictable funding increases for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Fiscal Year 2017 and beyond.

Reps. Castor and Fleischmann have been outspoken supporters of the NIH and the NCI. Since first taking office in 2007, Congresswoman Castor has been a champion for cancer research and has fought tirelessly for increases to the NIH budget and for research funding through other federal agencies. A strong proponent of cancer prevention, for the past two years Castor has spearheaded a far-reaching campaign to promote awareness of the HPV vaccine and how it can prevent all kinds of cancers. She also joined her colleague Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) in working to advance the Accelerating the End of Breast Cancer Act, H.R.1197, to the House floor for a vote earlier this year.

Rep. Fleischmann has represented the third district of Tennessee since 2010. He currently serves on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services where he is a devoted advocate for the cancer community. Representative Fleischmann encourages cancer patients to share their stories and has further opened the dialogue in Congress about the need for more research to bring more cures. He has repeatedly called for a national commitment to defeat cancer, and readily shares his personal experiences to bring hope to others.

In 2015, Congress passed a bipartisan spending bill, which provided the NIH with a $2 billion increase in federal funding for FY 2016- the largest boost in annual appropriations for the NIH in more than a decade. Cancer researchers, physician scientists, the nation’s cancer centers and cancer patients depend on robust, predictable and sustainable funding increases for the NIH and NCI in order to increase the pace of progress against cancer.

For the past 10 years each May, which is National Cancer Research Month, the three largest organizations representing more than 60,000 cancer researchers and community oncologists, and 95 cancer centers across the U.S. converge on Capitol Hill to share how cancer research is saving lives and transforming patient care. This year, advocates will thank Members of Congress for their renewed commitment to NIH and NCI in FY 2016, and they will urge Congress to continue the momentum by providing a $2.4 billion increase for the NIH in FY 2017.

 

Blue Ribbon Cancer Panel Draws Praise from the Association of American Cancer Institutes

The Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI) congratulates the new members of a Blue Ribbon Panel, announced April 4 by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which will inform the scientific direction and goals at NCI of Vice President Joe Biden’s National Cancer Moonshot Initiative. blue-ribbon-panel-article

The panel, comprised of scientific experts, cancer leaders, and patient advocates, includes four AACI cancer center directors: Mary Beckerle, Ph.D., CEO and Director, Huntsman Cancer Institute, Salt Lake City; Chi Van Dang, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Medicine and Director, Abramson Cancer Center, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; Augusto Ochoa, M.D., Professor of Pediatrics and Director, Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center Louisiana State University, New Orleans; and, Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D., Professor of Oncology, Professor of Biochemistry, and Director, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Nashville, Tennessee. In addition, Laurie Glimcher, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Dean, Weill Cornell Medical College, is incoming President and CEO, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston.

The Blue Ribbon Panel is co-chaired by Tyler Jacks, Ph.D., Chair, National Cancer Advisory Board, and Director, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Elizabeth Jaffee, M.D., Professor and Deputy Director for Translational Research, Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, and Dinah Singer, Ph.D., Acting Deputy Director and Director, Division of Cancer Biology, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland. (A full list of panel members is at this link http://www.cancer.gov/news-events/press-releases/2016/blue-ribbon-panel-announced)

In the course of its work the panel will consider how to advance a number of themes that have been proposed for the initiative, including enhanced data sharing, a goal highlighted by the vice president earlier this year when he urged leading cancer centers to break down silos and reach unprecedented levels of cooperation.

“As a primary source for the generation, collection and use of molecular, clinical and outcomes data, AACI and its member cancer centers fully support the vice president’s call to revolutionize the sharing of medical and research data,” said AACI President George J. Weiner, MD.

Dr. Weiner stressed that steady, predictable funding for the National Institutes of Health and NCI is vital as cancer centers work to share data and improve information systems and communication across the cancer continuum. Streamlining regulatory oversight of these efforts, while also protecting patient privacy, is central to optimizing progress.

A key element of AACI’s mission is helping cancer centers keep pace with the changing landscape in science, technology and health care.

“AACI looks forward to collaborating with the members of the Blue Ribbon Panel in order to meet the vice president’s goal of ending cancer as we know it,” said AACI Executive Director Barbara Duffy Stewart, MPH.

AACI Thanks President Obama, Vice President Biden for Highlighting “Cancer Moonshot”

The Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI) thanks President Barack Obama for his call for a “cancer moonshot” in his final State of the Union address, and Vice President Joe Biden’s focus on expanded cooperation among cancer centers.

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Vice President Joe Biden

AACI President George J. Weiner, MD, director of the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa, applauded the President’s remarks, saying:

“It is an incredible time in cancer research and cancer medicine. In many ways, a cancer moonshot is much more challenging than the original moonshot.  There is only one moon, and its behavior is predictable based on the laws of physics.   However, every cancer is different and every patient is different.  Nevertheless, based on years of progress resulting from research conducted in large part at the nation’s academic cancer centers, we now understand cancer better than ever and are advancing clinical care for cancer patients at a rapid pace.”

In a follow-up to the President’s speech, Vice President Biden outlined in a blog post plans to encourage leading cancer centers to reach unprecedented levels of cooperation.  AACI cancer centers currently collaborate in many ways based on the understanding that success in cancer research, education and care is faster when we work together.  The Vice President’s call to action will push AACI cancer centers to a new level of partnership and cooperation. Comprised of 95 premier academic cancer research centers in the U.S. and Canada, AACI is poised to ease the burden of cancer by supporting the ability of its member centers to work together.

“A coordinated cancer moonshot will allow us to accelerate our research progress, thereby reducing the pain and suffering caused by cancer, for current and future generations,” Dr. Weiner said.  “The nation’s cancer centers look forward to working with the President and Vice President to move these general concepts from the drawing board to the launching pad.”

NCI’s Bypass Budget: Join the Conversation

In two days, leaders of the nation’s cancer centers will convene in Washington, D.C. for the 2015 AACI/CCAF Annual Meeting. Cancer centers are the backbone of the country’s National Cancer Program, and as the head of communications for NCI, I’m honored to have this opportunity to blog about a very important topic affecting us all.

Peter F. Garrett, Director, NCI Office of Communications and Public Liaison

Peter F. Garrett, Director, NCI Office of Communications and Public Liaison

The Future of Funding for Cancer Research

On September 16, NCI delivered its Annual Plan and Budget Proposal for Fiscal Year 2017, or “Bypass budget,” to the President, Congress, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), NCI’s advisory boards, the NIH and fellow HHS agencies. This year’s Bypass, also known as the Professional Judgment budget, differs from recent proposals in that acting NCI director Dr. Doug Lowy requests a seven percent funding increase, compared to 15 percent last year, and asks Congress to pledge to fund seven percent increases for each of the next ten years.

This strategic approach to double NCI’s budget by 2026 acknowledges the reality of today’s budgetary climate in Congress and the necessity of a sustained national commitment to restoring cancer research’s buying power so that we, as a nation, are able to meet the expectations of cancer patients — investing in cutting-edge research, facilitating advances across the continuum of scientific research, and supporting our most valuable resources – the cancer research community.

A New Approach to Engaging the Cancer Community 

I have also instituted a change in how the Bypass budget proposal for 2017 is presented to the community.  Rather than beginning with a printed version (still available by request), the information is being disseminated digitally, via emails and social media pointing to a web portal.  We want researchers, advocates, and others with a stake in cancer research to consider NCI’s proposals and engage in conversations—online and offline—about the strategies and opportunities we’ve outlined.

NCI wants your ideas to make this budget proposal come alive.  Discussion, debate, and engagement surrounding the topics in the Bypass Budget make it a meaningful, living proposal – the new, digital-first Bypass Budget should be more than just a page on a website, it should be the starting point for a meaningful conversation.

Your Voice is What Matters Most 

We want your input–through any communication channel (e.g. e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, etc.).  One way for you to share your ideas with us and the broader cancer community is to comment on Bypass-related blog posts that are appearing this fall (see full schedule below).

September 17: NCI Releases Budget Proposal for Fiscal Year 2017

September 24: Cancer Trends: Influencing Care and Research Priorities

October 8: Progress Against Cancer: The Role of Basic Science

October 22: Bringing Cancer Research to the Public: NCI’s Networks and Programs

November 5: A Holistic Approach to Reducing Cancer Health Disparities

November 19: Precision Medicine Part I: Understanding Precision Medicine

December 10: Precision Medicine Part II: Clinical Trials for Adults and Children

January 13: Cancer Prevention: The Best Defense

Each blog post offers a view from NCI leadership on the pivotal advances in cancer research that create key opportunities for progress.  The comment section accompanying each blog post allows you to open a dialogue with NCI and other thought leaders.

For those of you who actively participate in social media as a way of interacting with the public, we invite to join us in an upcoming Google Hangout.

Join the Conversation!

Make your voice heard. We have already engaged the community in conversations about cancer trends and the importance of basic science.  Starting today, you can comment on our Cancer Currents blog on how NCI networks, including the NCI-designated cancer centers, bring cancer research to the public. On November 2 we will host a Google Hangout about NCI networks and another one on November 10 about bioinformatics and expanding access to data. We would love for you and your colleagues to participate.

Once again, I appreciate this opportunity to write to you and I ask you to let me know if there are other ways we can facilitate better communication across the community and with the public we all serve.

Peter F. Garrett, Director, Office of Communications and Public Liaison