Ken Anderson, MD, director of the Jerome Lipper Multiple Myeloma Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, was in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 12, to speak with members of Congress and their legislative staffs about blood cancer care and research.
His presentation was part of an American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) briefing on progress in cancer research and treatment, challenges created by recent funding cuts, and the potential impact of additional budget cuts that are slated for this spring.
Unless Congress passes legislation before March 1 to address the sequestration provision of the Budget Control Act of 2011, automatic budgetary cuts will reduce National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding by 5.1 percent. This could result in a loss of more than 20,500 jobs and $3 billion in new economic activity, according to a report from United for Medical Research, a coalition of leading research institutions (including AACR), patient and health advocates, and private industry that seek steady increases in NIH funding.
Anderson explained that recent progress in multiple myeloma research has made it a "chronic disease for many patients." He noted that agents like bortezomib, the immunomodulatory drug lenalidomide, carfilzomib and pomalidomide have resulted in demonstrable patient benefit.
"Without NIH/NCI funding, this amazing progress simply would never have happened," said Anderson. "Importantly, the lessons of myeloma apply to other blood cancers. Indeed, the mechanisms of disease are common, allowing for fast-forwarding progress in the development of new, more effective treatments."
Douglas Lowy, MD, deputy director of the National Cancer Institute, pointed out at the briefing that while the NCI budget for fiscal year 2012 was approximately $5 billion, most of that funding was already committed to ongoing projects, and annual increases have not kept pace with inflation. According to Lowy, only around 15 percent of new grant applications receive funding.
"Basic research supported by the NCI is the main engine of discovery that will lead to future breakthroughs in the fight against cancer," said Lowy.
At Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center, multiple myeloma is treated through the Hematologic Oncology Treatment Center.