Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Speaking Out About NIH Budget Cuts

I was invited by Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey to speak at the press conference Senator Bob Menendez  was holding after he toured the Cancer Center.  The press conference highlighted the impact cutting the National Institutes of Health budget by 18% would have on researchers, oncologists and patients.

Here are the main points I made during the speech.

I am here today because of cancer research funded by the National Institutes of Health. The successful treatment of my cancer at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey has been key to my survival. I was first diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer in 2005, one of over 700 women diagnosed that year in NJ. After my surgery, I took part in a clinical research trial and after nine chemotherapy cycles, I was told I was disease free. When the tumor returned in 2008 I had surgery, 6 more rounds of chemotherapy and was once again disease free. The treatments I underwent were available to me because of research supported by the NIH.

In the almost 12 years since my diagnosis I have seen major developments in treating cancers like mine – all due to research funded by the federal government.

In 2006, a study was released that said intra peritoneal chemotherapy offered a survival benefit for women with ovarian cancer. We know this because of NIH funded research.
In 2011, the Cancer Genome Atlas, a project funded by the NIH, identified new mutations linked to ovarian cancer. This knowledge has led to new treatment strategies. We know this because of NIH funded research.

We saw the FDA approve a number of new therapies that specifically target ovarian cancer, reducing toxicity and maximizing anti-cancer efficacy.
We have these treatments because of NIH funded research.

Today work continues to develop immunotherapies to treat ovarian cancer.
We have these new developments because of NIH funded research. 
Progress is being made and now is not the time to reduce NIH funding.

A proposed 18% reduction in funding would stagnate key research and reduce the number of investigators trying to understand the causes of the disease and developing cures for many types of cancer. This in turn will impact the lives of many residents in NJ who have been or will be diagnosed with the disease in the future. 

As a Board member of the local Kaleidoscope of Hope Ovarian Cancer Foundation I have seen the impact grants can make in the career development of young cancer investigators. Many researchers supported by KOH have gone on to receive grant awards from the NIH. The Federal government’s support of cancer researchers, especially young investigators who wish to study rare cancers, is very important to me and other women who may develop gynecologic cancers in the future.

Cancer is not partisan, it does not care what religion you are, what the color of your skin is, what your age or sexual preference is. The only way we as a country will learn how to reduce our risk for disease, find better treatments, find a cure and  support survivors is through cancer research funded by the National Institutes of Health.  Thank you.

Every Day is a Blessing!