Leading cancer organizations: Trump’s proposed NIH budget cuts will threaten research, patient care
Many of the nation’s leading research organizations and cancer centers have voiced their opposition to President Donald J. Trump’s proposed budget, which includes a $5.8 billion cut to NIH funding in 2018.
The budget “blueprint” — released Thursday — proposes $54 billion in cuts overall, including a 16.2% decrease, or $12.6 billion, for the Department of Health and Human Services.
“[The budget outline] will devastate our nation’s already fragile federal research infrastructure and undercut a longstanding commitment to biomedical science that has fueled advances in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment,” Daniel F. Hayes, MD, FACP, FASCO, president of ASCO, said in a statement.
The proposed budget cut would decrease NIH funding nearly 20% — from $31.7 billion in 2017 to $25.9 billion the following year — impacting cancer research centers across the country whose source of funding is reliant upon the NIH.
For example, federal-sponsored research revenues at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center comprise 85% of the institution’s total sponsored funding.
“We are at an inflection point in our efforts to develop cures for cancer and related diseases,” Gary Gilliland, MD, PhD, president and director of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, said in a statement. “In that context, the proposed cuts are indefensible and would severely impede our progress.”
Patients’ lives are at stake, Gilliland said.
“These cuts are devastating and unacceptable,” he said. “We will work with our partner institutions, with our delegation and with other advocacy groups to push back against these proposed cuts. We cannot slow our urgent quest to find cures.”
In response to the proposed budget cuts, the nation’s leading hematology and oncology organizations have urged Congress to reject the budget outline and increase federal support for the NIH and NCI.
“As NIH is the largest funder of biomedical research, robust federal investment in and by the agency has led to innovative bench-to-bedside discoveries that have resulted in paradigm-shifting advances in blood disease treatment and cures,” Kenneth C. Anderson, MD, president of ASH, said in a statement. “In order to continue to make strides in conquering diseases, funding NIH at appropriate and sustainable levels must be a priority.”
ASH recently called upon Congress to pass $34.1 billion in funding for the NIH in 2017, which was passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee in June.
“Through its support of NIH, it is also critically important that Congress continue its commitment to the national cancer moonshot and precision medicine initiatives, which set aside vital funding to accelerate research progress,” Anderson said.
The American Association for Cancer Research suggested an 18% budget cut would have large impact on young researchers, as well.
“At a time when extraordinary progress is being made against cancer and many other diseases, these draconian cuts would set research back for decades and also threaten the careers of an entire generation of young investigators working in labs and clinics all over the country who are committed to improving public health and saving lives,” the organization said in a statement.
In a press briefing on Thursday, White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney explained the cuts would help “focus on the core function” of the NIH.
“We think there’s been mission creep; we think they do things that are outside their core functions,” Mulvaney said. “We think there’s tremendous opportunity for savings. We recommend, for example, that a couple of facilities be combined; there would be cost savings from that.”
In 2016, Congress provided the NIH with a $2 billion funding increase to ensure that medical research remains a national priority; however, experts say the proposed 2018 budget could result in major setbacks for cancer research.
“Now is not the time to slow progress in finding new treatments and cures for patients with cancer,” Hayes said. “In fact, after more than a decade of flat funding, our nation’s biomedical research infrastructure must catch up with sustained increases in future years to meet the possibility of today’s science.” – by Kristie L. Kahl