Focus

 

 

Sequestration Budget Cuts on Medical Research. Will they Hit Home?

National Day of Action planned on April 8

Federally funded medical research could be cut sharply as a result of across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration. Laboratories at Dartmouth-Hitchcock and Geisel School of Medicine could see a $4.6 million reduction in their research awards.

Focus article photo

Norris Cotton Cancer Center fosters collaborative, interdisciplinary research into the biology, causes, prevention, and treatment of cancer. The scientists in NCCC's Cancer Mechanism Research Program (shown above) have research interests in basic cancer mechanisms, including the normal functions of oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes; regulators of cell cycle and apoptosis; regulators of angiogenesis and metastasis; and stem cells and blood formation.

In buildings scattered throughout Hanover and Lebanon, NH, there are floors and floors of laboratories where world-class researchers, junior faculty, and eager students tackle one of the greatest medical mysteries of our time−cancer. And their research is funded, in part, by federal agencies, especially the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Cancer research funding in NH

At Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center (NCCC), 150 scientists hold more than $46 million in federal funding. Scientists seek grant support each year to cover lab expenses, equipment, and salaries, with approximately 85 percent of the support used for personnel. Dartmouth College and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center provide space and keep the lights on, but the science itself is fueled by grants. These grants are highly competitive and won only after intensive peer review.

"Federal support of cancer research has put us on the verge of some incredible breakthroughs, and this work is going on here at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center and other research institutions around the country. We need to bring these potential discoveries to fruition because they will lead to prevention or treatment for some of the most deadly cancers," said Mark Israel, MD, Director, NCCC. "I want our members of Congress to know that critical medical research that NIH funds is going on in their own backyard."

With the current federal budget continuing resolution in effect only until March 27th, the specifics of impending cuts through September 30th are not yet known. Back in October, a spokesperson for the National Cancer Center Director's Office predicted funding of current projects would be reduced to 90 percent of award level. NCCC could see a $4.6 million reduction over the next 12 months. Israel has informed his researchers to anticipate an average cut of 8 percent.

New Hampshire received 196 grants totaling more than $88 million from the National Institutes of Health in 2011. As the only National Cancer Institute designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, NCCC received half of the funding flowing into New Hampshire.

Thousands expected to rally on Washington

To support the federally funded medical research that goes on in all 50 states, thousands of advocates, survivors, researchers, clinicians, business leaders and members of the general public plan to gather in the nation's capital on Monday, April 8, at 11 a.m. The event, publicly supported by more than 80 national organizations such as the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, and American Cancer Society, is intended to serve as a call to action for the nation's policymakers to make life-saving medical research funding a national priority.

Concerned individuals don't have to make the trip to Washington, DC to get involved. The movement has its own website and YouTube channel for virtual participation at rallyformedicalresearch.org. The Twitter hashtag #RallyMedRes has also been developed to gain the attention of policymakers.

Residents of Vermont and New Hampshire can use Dartmouth-Hitchcock's Health Care Advocacy webpage to reach out to their Senators and members of Congress.

 "This remains a high priority with the government relations team and we need your help," says Matthew Houde, Community Communications Specialist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. "Simply tell your representatives that you believe federally funded medical research should be a national priority." Houde recommends individuals briefly mention any way that their life has been touched by medical research: "If you or a family member has participated in a clinical trial that you believe saved your life, of course you should say so in your message," says Houde.  

Cancer Research Supports NH Economy

Federally funded research has a positive economic impact on communities like the Upper Valley. In 2010, NIH grants yielded $68 billion in new economic activity and supported 487,000 jobs across 50 states and Washington, D.C. In the Granite State, NIH awards support 1,396 jobs.  

Federal funding for medical research and cancer prevention programs has had a role in every major advance against this disease.

Israel identified multiple examples of how federally funded research conducted in New Hampshire is helping to change practice and policy:

  • As one of nine NCI-designated Centers of Nanotechnology Excellence, NCCC has a $12.8 million five-year grant working with engineers at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College to study nanomaterials and develop nanodevices to diagnose, treat, and prevent cancer.
  • NCCC's cancer control research on the impact of smoking in popular movies aimed at young people helped shaped the policy recommendations in the recent Surgeon General's Report.
  • Medical associations are changing diagnostic and treatment guidelines following the National Lung Screening Trial which showed that low-dose CT scans can decrease a heavy smoker's risk of dying from lung cancer by 20 percent. 
  • As one of five NCI-funded breast cancer registries in the country, NCCC researchers collected data from more than a million mammograms of New Hampshire women. Ultimately, the results will help identify what kind of care is best for women with breast cancer.

 To learn more about the Rally for Medical Research visit rallyformedicalresearch.org. To monitor health care policy issues affecting your community, bookmark Dartmouth-Hitchcock's Healthcare Advocacy Page.

March 18, 2013