Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Are You In? Your Life May Depend on It


AACR Seeks Public Support to Protest Funding Cuts

Elsevier Global Medical News. 2011 Apr 4, S Worcester

ORLANDO (EGMN) - The American Association for Cancer Research is rallying support for an outcry against proposed budget cuts by Congress that could cut funding to the National Institutes of Health by up to $1.6 billion.
The AACR is asking its membership of approximately 33,000 cancer physicians and researchers - as well as numerous other groups and the community in general - to voice their concerns on April 6 at 2 p.m. Eastern Time. 

Cuts to the National Cancer Institute amounting to about $300 million would drastically affect research grant funding and would stymie the current unprecedented level of progress and innovation in cancer research, Dr. Jon Retzlaff said at a press conference during the AACR's annual meeting. Dr. Retzlaff is managing director of the AACR's Office of Science Policy and Government Affairs in Washington, D.C.
The organization is asking that at the designated time, "every single patient, every cancer researcher call or e-mail members of Congress ... so they hear that it is crazy to go down this path," Dr. Retzlaff said. 

"We have to make our voice heard in ways we've never done before," he said, noting that the AACR has sent numerous alerts to members, and is working with various other groups to enlist their support in this effort.

The $1.6 billion in cuts to the NIH is part of the $61 billion in proposed cuts by the U.S. House of Representatives. The Senate has proposed $33 billion in budget cuts. As Congress grapples with the budget as well as the possibility that the government will be shut down in the coming days if a compromise is not reached, cancer researchers are left wondering if all their current research projects are in jeopardy.

"It's all about patients - about finding cures, and improving health," Dr. Retzlaff said, adding that there is an important economic development component that must also be considered: The investments in the NIH contribute greatly to economic development and innovation, which are priorities for the country - and which are imperative for its success in the future, he said.
The proposed cuts would likely mean reduced funding for major research programs and for cancer centers across the country, as well as the discontinuation of many grant programs that scientists rely on to pursue their research.

"We completely agree there have to be some tough choices, but ... let's not put our deficit on the backs of patients who are looking for hope and researchers who think they have wonderful opportunities to make a difference," he said.

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