There are more than 15 million cancer survivors in America today, all benefiting from groundbreaking scientific discoveries in cancer prevention, early detection and treatment. Life-saving cancer treatments begin with basic research at major centers like the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center and are often funded or conducted by the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute.
Congress is on the verge of giving a much-needed boost to cancer research taking place in labs like ours across the country. In the next few weeks, lawmakers will consider the largest single NIH increase in a decade. This funding would be a crucial step in shoring up future progress against a disease that kills nearly 10,000 Kentuckians each year.
Cancer research is imperative for Kentucky, as our state is ranked first in the nation for cancer incidence and mortality. Research offers hope to the millions of people who face cancer – hope for better treatments, for more opportunities to prevent and detect the disease early, and for improved quality of life for those already diagnosed.
Unfortunately, over the past decade, stalled funding and rising costs have eroded the NIH budget jeopardizing this progress. Federal funding for medical research has dropped more than 24 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars since 2003, forcing cancer centers to halt promising clinical trials and drying up the grant pool relied upon by researchers.
Congress has a rare chance to make a serious impact against cancer. While this nation is divided on so many issues, here is a moment for lawmakers to stand together and make a difference on something that affects almost every person in this country. I urge you to help us conquer cancer in the commonwealth by contacting your Congressional representatives and encouraging them to support legislation for increased cancer research funding.
Dr. Mark Evers is director, University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center.