ASCO 2013: Why public funding of research matters (VIDEO)

June 1, 2013 | by Hiu Chung So


The American Society of Clinical Oncology's (ASCO) annual meeting will include numerous significant – even breakthrough – findings for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Many of them would not have been possible without public funding.


That was the focus of the meeting's opening day briefing on May 31. At the event, the panel noted that current National Cancer Institute (NCI) funding has been decreasing for the past decade and is currently stagnating at 1998 levels, after adjusting for inflation. And that was before the sequestration's automatic cut of 5 percent from the budget.

“Our federally funded clinical trials system has achieved remarkable advances that have improved survival and quality of life for millions of people with cancer, but this progress is occurring under the cloud of federal budget slashing,” said ASCO President Sandra M. Swain, M.D., during the briefing and in a press release.

Some may argue that private and corporate sources can pick up the slack. However, Joanne Mortimer, M.D., director of City of Hope's Women's Cancers Program, explained in the video above that these sources may not have the same goals as a researcher.{C}

"You can't count on the pharmaceutical industry. Their goal is to get drugs on the market; our goal is to make sure we understand the [cancer's] biology and treat people selectively according to their unique cancer types," Mortimer said.

Mortimer added that her team is still waiting to hear back for a federal grant proposal that was submitted last October and originally slated for a January response.

The longer it takes researchers to get their funding, the longer it will take for tomorrow's cures to reach patients needing them today.

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