Impact of Proposed Cuts to NIH Budget: More Than Just About Cancer

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If enacted, the proposed budget reduction of $5.8 billion to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will slow research, deprive patients afflicted with cancer of hope, and deliver a devastating blow to our science workforce and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This proposed reduction directly counters the wisdom of the U.S. Congress, who less than a year ago overwhelmingly passed the 21st Century Cures Act.

Furthermore, the proposed budget cuts will sweep across the NIH and have a devastating impact on research against a myriad of rare and emerging illnesses —viral, genetic, fungal, bacterial, and man-made. This fight is not just about cancer, but about the future health of all U.S. citizens. As scientists, we stand together to support biomedical research through sustained NIH investments, which have long been a bipartisan priority embraced over the decades by Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike.

We acknowledge, salute, and thank members of Congress who support America’s continuing commitment to medical research to improve the health of all U.S. citizens. We urge everyone who is affected by cancer or ill health, who cares for science and training scientists, to let your representatives know how much you appreciate their help and demand their support for the NIH.

Standing United in Pennsylvania

Currently, scientists in Pennsylvania compete for and bring to our state over $1.57 billion in NIH funding. There are more than 21,700 jobs reliant on NIH in the Commonwealth, totaling an economic impact of $3.97 billion. In cancer research alone, the budget reduction would result in a loss of more than 3,900 scientific jobs in Pennsylvania and closures of laboratories at major research institutions, including our National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers. Training programs for the next generation of cancer researchers would wither. Most important, these reductions would deprive cancer patients in Pennsylvania access to the most advanced cancer care, offered through clinical trials at NCI-designated cancer centers.

Pennsylvania is unique in serving as home to 5 of the 69 elite NCI-designated cancer centers:

  • Abramson Cancer Center (at the University of Pennsylvania)
  • Fox Chase Cancer Center (at Temple University Health System)
  • Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center (at Thomas Jefferson University)
  • University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute
  • Wistar Institute Cancer Center.

As Directors of Pennsylvania’s NCI-designated cancer centers, we stand united in our belief that cutting $5.8 billion from NIH funding will injure the residents of our state—our neighbors, our friends, our families. We cannot ignore or avoid the tragedy of cancer. Unfortunately, our citizens endure a disproportionate share of the burden, ranking 6th overall among all states for cancer incidence, particularly prostate, breast, lung, and colon cancers. In 2017 in the United States, there will be an estimated 1,688,780 new cancer cases and 600,920 cancer deaths, translating to approximately 3 new cases and 1 death from cancer every minute of every day. In our Commonwealth, more than 3 family members die of cancer every hour, and 215 citizens will be told every day for the first time they have cancer.

Simply stated, research means hope for the 1.7 million Americans who will hear the words “you have cancer” this year. There is no doubt our nation’s federal support for basic, translational, and clinical research through the NIH is the key reason there are more than 15 million cancer survivors in the United States today. We want to thank all residents, our patients, and our elected officials in ensuring that Pennsylvania and the United States will stand with the families who need our help. ■

Karen E. Knudsen, PhD
Director, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center Thomas Jefferson University

Chi Van Dang, MD, PhD
Director, Abramson Cancer Center University of Pennsylvania

Richard I. Fisher, MD
Director, Fox Chase Cancer Center Temple University Health System

Edward Chu, MD
Interim Director, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute

Dario Altieri, MD
Director, Wistar Institute Cancer Center