January 05, 2016
In his letter to the editor on Dec. 5, Mark Runyan urged Congress to increase funding for cancer research at the National Institutes of Health. I am proud to announce that the government funding bill for next year includes a $2 billion NIH funding increase that I fought for in the Senate.
As Runyan notes, NIH has lost more than 20 percent of its research purchasing power over the past decade. As chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies, I helped pass a funding bill in committee earlier this year that raised NIH funding by $2 billion, a 6 percent increase. The measure included more than $5 billion for the National Cancer Institute, a 5 percent increase. Together, this represented the largest funding increase NIH and NCI have received in this bill in over a decade. I’m glad that the funding levels passed by the committee were included in the final version of the government appropriations bill that was enacted this week.
In August, I attended a roundtable at University Hospital in Columbia where I heard from cancer researchers and local advocates whose personal stories underscored the vital need to enhance federal funding for NIH. One mother who lost her 6-year-old son to a rare blood cancer in 2014 said she was “mortified” to learn about the lack of research funding after her son was diagnosed. We must do better for her family, and millions of others that have suffered the heartache of a cancer diagnosis or lost a loved one to the disease.
According to the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, “federal funding for cancer research and 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.” Today, research is underway at NCI to develop therapies that target gene mutations present in 30 percent of cancers. It is one of several key initiatives the institute is pursuing to advance all aspects of cancer research and treatment, “from basic science to clinical science, to research on implementation and cancer care delivery.”
I am grateful that my colleagues made NIH funding a priority in the government funding measure, and hope they will continue their support and give hope to families in Missouri and across the nation that are battling cancer and other incurable diseases.
Roy Blunt is the junior U.S. senator from Missouri, in office since 2011.
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