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Proposed cuts to NIH will be a devastating blow to medicine

A reduction of funds to the NIH will have impact on cancer patients and cancer research in Pennsylvania and across the nation.

The proposed budget reduction of $5.8 billion to the National Institutes of Health, if enacted, will slow research, deprive patients afflicted with cancer of hope, and deliver a devastating blow to our science work force and the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This proposed reduction directly counters the wisdom of the U.S. Congress, which, less than a year ago, overwhelmingly passed the 21st Century Cures Act.

Furthermore, the proposed budget cuts will sweep across the NIH and will have a devastating impact on research against myriad rare and emerging illnesses – viral, genetic, fungal, bacterial and man-made. This fight is not just about cancer, but about the future health of all U.S. citizens. As scientists, we stand together to support biomedical research through sustained NIH investments, which has long been a bipartisan priority embraced over the decades by Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike.

We acknowledge, salute and thank members of Congress who support America's continuing commitment to medical research to improve the health of all U.S. citizens. We urge everyone who is affected by cancer or ill health and who cares for science and training scientists to let your representatives know how much you appreciate their help and to demand their support for the NIH.

Currently, scientists in Pennsylvania compete for and bring to our state over $1.57 billion in NIH funding. More than 21,700 jobs are reliant on NIH in the commonwealth, totaling an economic impact of $3.97 billion. In cancer research alone, the budget reduction would result in a loss of more than 3,900 scientific jobs in Pennsylvania and closures of laboratories at major research institutions, including our National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers. Training programs for the next generation of cancer researchers would wither. Most important, these reductions would deprive cancer patients in Pennsylvania access to the most advanced cancer care, offered through clinical trials at NCI-designated cancer centers.

Pennsylvania is unique in serving as home to five of the 69 elite NCI-designated cancer centers:

  1. Abramson Cancer Center (at the University of Pennsylvania)

  2. Fox Chase Cancer Center (at Temple University Health System)

  3. Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center (at Thomas Jefferson University)

  4. University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute

  5. Wistar Institute Cancer Center

As directors of Pennsylvania's NCI-designated cancer centers, we stand united in our belief that cutting $5.8 billion from NIH funding will injure the residents of our state – our neighbors, our friends, our families. We cannot ignore or avoid the tragedy of cancer. Unfortunately, our citizens endure a disproportionate share of the burden, ranking sixth overall among all states for cancer incidence, particularly prostate, breast, lung, and colon cancer. In 2017 in the U.S., there will be an estimated 1.69 million new cancer cases and 600,920 cancer deaths, translating into approximately three new cases and one death from cancer every minute of every day. In our commonwealth, more than three family members die of cancer every hour, and 215 citizens will be told every day for the first time that they have cancer.

Simply stated, research means hope for the 1.7 million Americans who will hear the words "you have cancer" this year. There is no doubt that our nation's federal support for basic, translational and clinical research through the NIH is the key reason why more than 15 million cancer survivors in the United States are alive today. We want to thank all residents, our patients and our elected officials in ensuring that Pennsylvania and the United States will stand with the families who need our help.

The authors are affiliated with cancer centers in Pennsylvania: Karen E. Knudsen (Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University), Chi Van Dang (Abramson Cancer Center, University of Pennsylvania), Richard I. Fisher (Fox Chase Fox Chase Cancer Center at Temple University Health System), Edward Chu (University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine) and Dario Altieri (Wistar Institute Cancer Center).