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Mesothelioma Research Continues To Be Grossly Under-Funded


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. (

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. (1)

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)." (2)


"President Bush and House Republicans Undermine Life Saving Health Research." Updated Sep. 12, 2006. Nov 7, 2006.

(2) Nov. 7, 2006.