There Are Many Ways To Fight Cancer. Cutting Funding For Research Isn’t One of Them.

“ASCO and others in the biomedical research community are calling for Congress to increase funding for NIH by $1.9 billion (6.6%) in Fiscal Year 2009 to keep pace with medical research inflation, to reverse the effects of flat funding, and to sustain momentum in biomedical research.”

“Federal Research Funding

Increase Federal Research Funding. Make Your Voice Heard.
The fight against cancer needs your help.

Almost 1.5 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer this year, and 1 American dies of the disease every minute.

But instead of increasing funding to find new and better cures, our nation’s commitment to funding cancer research is waning. In fact, adjusted for inflation, we have about $500 million less for cancer research than we did just five years ago.

Take Action Now. Sign ASCO’s petition to support increased funding for the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute.


The nation’s investment in cancer research is paying off. Cancer deaths are decreasing, survival rates are increasing and treatments are becoming more targeted and with fewer side-effects.

But the United States is in the midst of the longest sustained period of flat funding for cancer research. The budgets for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) have been flat for 5 years. Adjusted for inflation (using the Biomedical Research and Development Price Index), the NIH budget has fallen 13 percent since 2003, and the NCI budget has fallen 12 percent since 2004.

Decline in NIH Purchasing Power: 1995-2007

(Source: Association of American Medical Colleges)

(ASCO Ad in USA Today, June 2, 2008 )

Annual Increase of NIH and NCI Appropriations 1998-2008

(Source: ASCO)

After years of progress, funding for NIH and NCI leveled off and actually decreased in recent years. From 1998 to 2003, funding for NCI increased by 80 percent, allowing for major advances in cancer research . Since that period of rapid growth, NCI’s budget has grown by an average of less than 1 percent annually. In FY 2006, NCI experienced a cut of almost 1 percent.

These declines in the value of NIH and NCI funding threaten to erode the extraordinary recent progress made in biomedical research over the past decade, at a time when scientific potential has never been greater.

ASCO Position:

ASCO and others in the biomedical research community are calling for Congress to increase funding for NIH by $1.9 billion, or 6.6 percent, in FY 2009, to keep pace with medical research inflation, to reverse the effects of flat funding and to sustain momentum in biomedical research. ASCO respects the professional judgment of the NCI in requesting a total of $5.26 billion (a $455 million increase over FY 2008 funding levels). ASCO will work to ensure that Congress approves the largest possible total funding increase to support NIH and cancer research. ASCO is also calling for funding increases over the next several years that at least keep pace with inflation to ensure that progress in cancer research continues.

ASCO Links of Interest:

Advocating for Change
ASCO Legislative Activities
ASCO’s Clinical Cancer Advances Report
Current Congressional Activities
Fact Sheet: “The Crisis in Cancer Research Funding”
Timeline: Progress in Cancer Research over the Past Four Decades

Other Links of Interest:

A Broken Pipeline? Flat funding of the NIH puts a generation of science at risk.
Lasker Foundation Papers on Economic Impact of Research Funding
NCI Report: The Nation’s Investment in Cancer Research
Research! America Cancer Fact Sheet
Research! America Fact Sheet: Four Reasons Congress Must Act Now To Support Health Research

[Quoted Source: ASCO Ad in USA Today Calls for Increased Research Funding, American Society of Clinical Oncology E-News, June 10, 2008.]

The Life Saving Effect of Johanna’s Law

Johanna’s Law is named after Johanna Silver Gordon, a dynamic woman and former schoolteacher, who lost her life to ovarian cancer despite being a health conscious woman who visited the gynecologist regularly. Sadly, Johanna did not recognize the early symptoms and warning signs of ovarian cancer until AFTER being diagnosed with an advanced stage of the disease. Lack of symptom recognition contributed to a lengthy —and ultimately lethal — delay in Johanna’s diagnosis. Tragically, Johanna’s story of delayed diagnosis is all too common. Thousands of U.S. women annually are stunned not only by diagnoses of gynecologic cancer, but also learn after the fact that the symptoms experienced in the months prior to their diagnoses were common symptoms of these cancers. The problem is particularly common with respect to ovarian cancer, where a pervasive lack of knowledge regarding symptoms commonly leads to lengthy delays in disease diagnosis. Additionally, women are frequently misdiagnosed with benign conditions before the correct diagnosis is made by a health care professional.

Source: [ Johanna’s Law Alliance for Women’s Cancer Awareness, Sheryl Silver (Johanna’s sister), Founder/President].

Johanna’s Law

The Gynecologic Cancer Education and Awareness Act (P.L. 109-475) was passed by the 109th Congress and signed into law in early 2007. This law provides up to $16.5 million for awareness and education through a national public service campaign that will include written materials and public service announcements.

The passage of Johanna’s Law was required because too many women are diagnosed in later stages of gynecologic cancers; if these women were diagnosed earlier, their chances of survival would be greater. Women with ovarian cancer have a five-year relative survival rate of more than 90 percent if diagnosed in Stage I. Unfortunately, less than 20 percent of ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed in Stage I. The overall five-year relative survival rate for ovarian cancer is 45 percent. Due to the lack of an early screening test for ovarian cancer (however, see Yale Blood Test Detects Early Stage Ovarian Cancer with 99% Accuracy), women and health care providers must be aware of the signs and symptoms of gynecologic cancers to act in the best interests of women.

Legislative History

In 2004, the bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representativies (House). In 2005, the bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate (Senate). The House held a hearing on the bill in 2006. It was passed by unanimous consent of the Senate in 2006 and signed into law by President George W. Bush in early 2007. The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance (the Alliance) worked to secure the implementation funding of Johanna’s Law through the U.S. Congressional appropriations process. The Alliance requested $9 million to implement Johanna’s Law. In the 2008 fiscal year, this program was appropriated $6.5 million by the U.S. Congress. The Alliance will request the U.S. Congress to fully fund Johanna’s Law program for $10 million in the 2009 fiscal year.

Adoption of the Ovarian Cancer Symptoms Consensus Statement

In mid-2007, a number of medical organizations and related groups agreed upon and released a Consensus Statement listing the primary symptoms of ovarian cancer. These symptoms, long recognized by patients, and scientifically documented in the medical literature, are:

* Bloating
* Pelvic or abdominal pain
* Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
* Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)

A woman who experiences these symptoms persistently for several weeks should consult with her doctor, preferably a gynecologist. Prompt medical evaluation may lead to detection at the earliest possible stage of the disease. Early stage diagnosis is associated with an improved prognosis.

Often, women and health care providers mistake ovarian cancer for gastrointestinal disorders or early menopause. While symptoms may seem vague, they can be lethal without proper medical intervention. Johanna’s Law provides for an education and awareness campaign that will educate health care providers with respect to, and increase women’s awareness of, this disease.

Source: [Johanna’s Law: The Gynecologic Cancer Education and Awareness Act of 2007, Ovarian Cancer National Alliance website]

Comment: The impetus for adoption of Johanna’s Law can be traced to Sheryl Silver, Johanna’s sister. Sheryl is the founder and president of the Johanna’s Law Alliance for Women’s Cancer Awareness. The adoption of Johanna’s Law should heighten the awareness of women in the U.S. regarding the primary symptoms and warning signs associated with ovarian cancer in the earliest stages of the disease. Sheryl Silver’s perseverance on behalf of the memory of her sister led to the adoption of a law that will undoubtedly save thousands of lives in the future.