Federal spending cuts could hurt America's cancer research efforts
Remember the sequestration that had politicians in a tizzy a few weeks ago? Turns out the federal spending cuts may have the potential to disrupt important medical research that could affect all our families.
The National Institutes of Health, the nation's top health research agency, will see a whopping $2.5 billion in cuts in fiscal year 2013, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Medical experts suggest looming cuts will be particularly harmful to cancer-related research. Major cancer organizations say cancer patients will suffer because without money there will be slowdowns in cancer research and, ultimately, the approval of drugs and other treatments will be seriously compromised.
Thankfully, some of these medical groups aren't staying quiet. More than 100 organizations will hold a Rally for Medical Research on Monday in Washington to protest the cuts. Among those attending the rally will be Dr. Nancy Davidson, the well-regarded breast cancer researcher who heads the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.
Davidson told me last week she has serious concerns about the cuts, which no doubt will affect the institute's work. She will be forced to cut jobs, shut laboratories and halt promising experiments. She won't be able to hire faculty members and faces the possibility of shutting programs.
The institute will have to shave 5 percent of about $65 million in grants from the National Cancer Institute. The cuts get bigger when you include all of Pitt's schools of the health sciences, which stand to lose about $26 million of their overall $486 million in NIH grants.
“That's a lot of payroll, that‘s a lot of experiments, that's a lot of good ideas that are not going to be able to be pursued,” Davidson said.
It gets worse. Cuts could include young scientists who are working on cutting-edge experiments that could eventually make their way to clinical trials. You've probably bumped into some of them if you've ever been at the Hillman Cancer Center in Shadyside, home of the cancer institute.
“If we don't have a workforce that's passionate and prepared and able to take this forward, we're going to stop,” Davidson said. “It's a terrible situation for us because we have made so much progress.”
It's hard to argue with the progress — a steady drop in cancer death rates that means more than a million deaths have been avoided. Death rates have declined in some of the most fatal — and feared — forms of cancer: lung, breast, colon and prostate.
I asked Davidson for specific examples to show how research and its discoveries changed the treatment of cancer. She mentioned an aggressive form of the illness called HER2-positive breast cancer. There are now four agents that specifically target the HER2 protein, compared with none in 1998, she said. Part of her visit to Washington includes meetings with other cancer experts to fine-tune guidelines to use those treatments.
Davidson's fears are justified. Every advancement in cancer makes a difference. All progress aside, it remains a dreaded disease that touches virtually every family in the United States. It makes no sense to kill research and, in the process kill the next big medical breakthrough.
Luis Fábregas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7998 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pittsburgh hires consultant, former Wisconsin police captain as chief
- Tomlin: Steelers preparing to face both Browns QBs
- Unlike years past, strength of 2014 Steelers could be offense
- Steelers Lookahead: Previewing Sunday’s game vs. Cleveland
- Wedding aboard Pittsburgh’s Gateway Clipper ends in arrests
- Trial opens in case of man shot, paralyzed during traffic stop altercation
- On-off ramps on southbound Interstate 79 from Carnegie slated for two-day closure
- Housing market remains ‘disaster’ in Westmoreland County
- Steelers notebook: Polamalu made 1st-time captain; Roethlisberger named for offense
- Campus visit sells 4-star Ohio recruit Hall on Panthers
- Western Pa. districts aim to win back students from cyber charters