The Necessary Federal Investment in Cancer Research

The Necessary Federal Investment in Cancer Research

Linda R. Duska, MD, MPH

Nov 07, 2018

Just over a year ago, ASCO published the results of its first National Cancer Opinion Survey, which assessed the U.S. public’s views on cancer research and care. The study data yielded a number of interesting and valuable findings, including lack of public awareness about modifiable risk factors for cancer, fears about diagnosis and treatment, and serious concerns about the cost of cancer care.

The survey also measured opinions on the government’s role in cancer care. Over 90% of survey respondents believe that it is important for the U.S. government to dedicate substantial funding to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer—even if that requires increasing taxes or adding to the national deficit.

Over 90%.

The public knows that federal investment in cancer research is necessary and essential. ASCO members certainly know it. So how do we keep this issue at the top of mind, and make sure our voices are heard?

This summer, ASCO began an awareness and communications campaign to bring attention to the crucial importance of strong support for the National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute (NCI), so that researchers can continue to drive progress against cancer. Even with recent increases, the NCI budget remains lower than it was before the 2008 recession when you adjust for inflation. Fewer clinical trials are funded, fewer patients are enrolled, and opportunities for progress are lost.

At the heart of ASCO’s “I Live to Conquer Cancer” campaign are the stories of individual physician-scientists whose discoveries were made possible by federal research funding. Read about how Dr. Judith S. Kaur, Dr. Raymond U. Osarogiagbon, Dr. Tara Henderson, and Dr. Alan P. Lyss are conquering cancer in our cover story, and watch their compelling videos.

While the national budget may seem opaque and abstract, ASCO is putting a human face on the line items. Real lives are at stake.

ASCO invites all of us to join the campaign and offers many paths to do so, whether by adding your voice on social media, sharing your own story in a video or blog post, or contacting your representatives about the importance of federal funding for cancer research. Here's a list of ways to get involved.

I want to leave you with one more finding from the first National Cancer Opinion Survey: 79% of Americans are optimistic that the majority of cancers will be curable within the next 50 years. And the most optimistic respondents are those who have experience with cancer, especially those who have been personally diagnosed.

Those are our patients.

Our patients have seen, with their own eyes, the astonishing progress that has been made against cancer. They believe that more advances are possible—that we are so close. Let’s honor their faith in us and in our research enterprise with action. I challenge every reader to find one way to support the “I Live to Conquer Cancer” campaign, and help prove that 79% right. 

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