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June 2001 Volume 4, Issue 5:
The IMF Raises Its Voice Against Cancer

Eleven IMFers joined 250 cancer advocates from 40 cancer research advocacy organizations for the second annual One Voice Against Cancer (OVAC) Washington, D.C. lobby days on April 2-3, 2001 to urge support for increased federal cancer research funding. 

Nancy Smith and Roy Feld (with daughter Sarah), Dina Rosenberg, Marilyn Alexander and Al Jacobson, Brad High, and Nory Block of the Philadelphia MM Net-working Group; Carol Klein, from Bethesda, MD; Sheila Field, from Newport Beach, CA; and Greg Brozeit represented the IMF. They joined more than 250 advocates representing 40 OVAC organizations in 238 appointments with members of Congress and their staff.

This year (Fiscal Year 2002) OVAC is advocating for $23.7 billion for the National Institutes of Health ($3.4 billion or 16.5% increase); $5 billion for the National Cancer Institute ($1.25 billion or 32% increase); and $315 million for five cancer education, prevention and screening programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The NIH funding figure reflects the amount needed to maintain the fourth year of the congressional five-year pledge to double the NIH funding level. The NCI figure reflects the amount requested by the NCI Director's bypass budget (see last issue of Myeloma Today). Although the requested funding levels for NCI may seem high, it is important to remember that today NCI funds only 32% of approved grants. While none of the current CDC funding directly benefits the myeloma community, the IMF supports funding for colorectal and breast cancer screening programs, for example, because of the known efficacy these programs have in reducing the overall incidence in cancer.

Additionally, OVAC advocates urged support in the Senate for the Specter-Harkin Amendment to the Senate budget bill, which called on the Senate to fulfill the fourth and fifth years of the doubling of the NIH funding pledge. The amendment passed 96-4 on Wednesday, April 4 thanks largely to the strong support for cancer research funding exhibited during the OVAC event. Last year, OVAC received much of the credit in securing large increases for NCI funding and for late-session efforts to maintain those amounts.

President George W. Bush, in his first budget outline, provided strong support for medical research by requesting a 12.4% funding increase for NIH, which included 11.7% for NCI. Although these figures fall below the OVAC requests, they are significantly higher than previous presidential budgets and, compared to other program funding, medical research was one of the highest administration priorities. 

While a candidate for office, President Bush pledged to fund the NCI at $5.1 billion by 2003. The President deemed these efforts part of a “‘medical moon shot’ that would promote medical advances with new resources and new resolve.” Initial indications are that the administration is working hard to fulfill those commitments.

OVAC is a coalition of more than 40 public health organizations representing more than 15 million Americans impacted by cancer, represents researchers, physicians and nurses, patients and families – people working together to promote a common request for increased funding for priority cancer programs. This year's lobby days featured a training day that included speakers from the NCI and CDC, and other events prior to the Capitol Hill visits.

A number of members of Congress expressed support for OVAC at various events held over the two days. Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS), Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Representatives Sue Myrick (R-NC) and Kent Bentsen (D-TX) spoke at the OVAC press conference. Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Don Nickles (R-OK) attended the OVAC reception and Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) spoke at the OVAC breakfast prior to the Capitol Hill visits.

OVAC recognizes that the U.S. must mount an effective cancer research and application effort to benefit all Americans – by 2010, cancer incidence is expected to increase by 29% and mortality by 25%, at an annual economic cost exceeding $200 billion. 

This year, 1,268,000 Americans will be diagnosed with cancer and over 550,000 Americans will die of this disease. The only hope for many of these individuals can be found in the realization of more, and more varied, cancer research activities. For myeloma patients, hope will become greater only when more research takes place.

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