The annual National Cancer Institute (NCI) appropriates funds for a variety
of cancer research. However, it has long been acknowledged that mesothelioma
is "an orphan" cancer, and this is certainly reflected in the
amount of research funding the NCI appropriated for mesothelioma up to 2003.
In 2003, mesothelioma received $2,847,000, most of it for clinical trials
using big pharma drugs. Researchers are grateful for any funding they
receive, but to put that number in comparison with other life threatening
diseases, mesothelioma research continues to receive far, far less than others.
For example, the NCI appropriated $16,500,000 for Hodgkin disease research,
a disease with an estimated mortality of 1,300 per year (compared to meso,
which afflicts about 2,400 per year). Relative to mesothelioma research,
Hodgkin disease research received
11 times more funding per affected person. Additionally, cervical cancer, which has
a mortality closer to mesothelioma at approximately 4,000, received funding
over 16 times that of mesothelioma. What does this mean? It means that
the NCI does not consider mesothelioma research a priority at all. The
NCI funds one research study for every six breast cancer deaths, but it
funds only one research study for every 80 mesothelioma deaths.
Other sources are not providing the necessary funds either. The Department
of Defense funded $3.75 billion for all "military related" diseases
from 2003-2006. Approximately 1/3 of mesothelioma patients were exposed
on U.S. Navy ships or shipyards, clearly making it a "military-related"
disease. However, mesothelioma research was not even eligible to receive
money until August 2006 through the work of the Mesothelioma Applied Research
Foundation, a non profit organization dedicated to eradicating mesothelioma
as a life-ending disease. (www.marf.org)
Under the current administration, cancer research as a whole has suffered,
while the incidence of various cancers has accelerated. In 1999, Congress
proposed to double funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
over a five year period. In 2002, President George W. Bush claimed that
he would increase funds for the NIH, which he did, keeping with the original
plan set forth three years before. However, once the plan was fully realized
in 2004, President Bush and Congressional Republicans have begun to "reverse"
the trend of funding cancer research. Not only has funding failed to keep
up with inflation, but in 2006 for the first time in 36 years, funding
was actually cut-by $62 million!
For 2007, the Republicans propose freezing NIH funds at fiscal year 2006's
budget. These cuts result in a steady loss of purchasing power (9% compared
to 2003) and ultimately affect the 19 institutions the NIH supports. Over
half of NIH funds are directed towards research project grants but the
number of grants has dropped significantly since 2004. By 2007, the NIH
resources will be reduced by an estimated 1,570 grants.
Funding for clinical trials will be cut. Mesothelioma patients know how
critical clinical trials have been in securing new treatment options for
patients. However, in 2007, the NIH will lose $33 million for clinical
trials. Looking forward, the budget will cut $654 million in actual dollar
terms by 2011. Once adjusted for inflation, the NIH budget in 2011 would
actually be lower than 2006.
According to the Lance Armstrong Foundation, the cut in federal funding
affects all cancer research:
"The number of cancer survivors increases every year but federal spending
on cancer survivorship programs has not kept pace. The Administration's
most recent budget proposal featured flat funding for most federal cancer
programs at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC)."
"President Bush and House Republicans Undermine Life Saving Health
Updated Sep. 12, 2006. Nov 7, 2006.
Nov. 7, 2006.