TAMPA, Fla. – Several of the nation’s top leaders and advocates for cancer research converged in Tampa, Fla. on Monday for a forum hosted byMoffitt Cancer Center and the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). The 90-minute “Cancer Research Policy Forum: Progress, Promise, and Challenges in the Era of Precision Medicine” highlighted how federally funded research through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is contributing to the cancer research advances happening at Moffitt and other institutions across the country. Douglas R. Lowy, M.D., acting director of the NCI was joined bymembers of the United States House of Representatives Gus Bilirakis and Kathy Castor on an expert panel of speakers who discussed the progress being made in cancer research and treatment and the importance of advocating at the federal and local levels. Panelists were united in their calls for robust, sustained, and predictable increases in funding for the NIH.
Reps. Bilirakis and Castor, both of whom serve on the House Energy & Commerce Committee, have been outspoken advocates in Congress for medical research funding. Both members worked to include a supplemental, mandatory funding stream for the NIH in the 21st Century Cures legislation that passed the House last summer, and which is currently being debated in the United States Senate. They also supported a $2 billion increase for the NIH in last year’s appropriations bill. In their remarks, both Bilirakis and Castor emphasized the need for Congress to continue to make medical research funding a national priority.
Dr. Lowy highlighted the progress that has been made both in terms of a decrease in cancer mortality rates and an increase in our ability to prevent cancer through screening and prevention. He provided an update on new programs, including Vice President Biden’s national cancer initiative and the Precision Medicine Initiative that, with continued federal investment, have significant potential to increase the pace of progress against cancer.
“There has always been a tremendous need for funding for cancer research, but now there are tremendous opportunities to make progress that could benefit patients more quickly,” said Dr. Lowy while speaking at the forum.
“It's an incredibly promising time for cancer research. There have been numerous advances in precision medicine, including immunotherapies for melanoma and lung cancers. We are also seeing signs of hope from our leaders in Washington, D.C., first with the Precision Medicine Initiative and now the ‘moonshot’ initiative to be led by Vice President Joe Biden,” said Moffitt Center Director Thomas A. Sellers, PhD, MPH.
Support for early career scientists, the importance of collecting and sharing molecular and clinical data and the need for increased investment in cancer prevention were additional topics of discussion that arose during the open forum with the audience, who filled the Moffitt Couch Auditorium to capacity.
William Dalton, Ph.D., M.D. added that the complexity of cancer requires a multidisciplinary, “all hands on deck” approach. Dr. Dalton, who is the chair of the AACR Science Policy and Government Affairs Committee, also highlighted the work that the AACR has done to advocate for medical research funding, saying that, “without funding for the NIH and NCI, there will be no ‘next generation’ of researchers.”
“This particular event at the Moffitt Cancer Center underscores the importance of organizing such events all across the country to advocate for robust, sustained, and predictable annual budget increases for the NIH and NCI, especially when considering that more than 80 percent of all funding allocated to the NIH and NCI each year is competitively awarded to thousands of laboratory researchers and physician scientists in all 50 states,” said Jon Retzlaff, MBA, MPA, managing director of the AACR Office of Science Policy & Government Affairs. “It was also a wonderful opportunity for the local Members of Congress to interact with their constituents at the Moffitt Cancer Center and hear firsthand about the exceptional opportunities that exist today to translate our scientific knowledge and understanding into new ways to improve the prognosis and extend the lives of cancer patients.”
Jacqueline Smith, a 15-year survivor of Stage III melanoma, shared her experience as a patient who had the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial at Moffitt. As someone who has turned her personal journey with cancer into a lifelong mission to advocate for patients and survivors, she encouraged audience members to speak up and urge elected officials to continue investing in medical research through the NIH.
About Moffitt Cancer Center
Moffitt is dedicated to one lifesaving mission: to contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer. One of the three largest cancer centers in the United States based on patient volume, the Tampa-based facility is one of only 45 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, a distinction that recognizes Moffitt’s excellence in research, its contributions to clinical trials, prevention and cancer control. Moffitt is the top-ranked cancer hospital in Florida and has been listed in U.S. News & World Report as one of the “Best Hospitals” for cancer care since 1999. Moffitt devotes more than 2 million square feet to research and patient care. With more than 5,000 team members, Moffitt has an economic impact in the state of $1.9 billion. For more information, call 1-888-MOFFITT (1-888-663-3488), visit MOFFITT.org, and follow the Moffitt momentum on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
About the American Association for Cancer Research
Founded in 1907, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is the world’s oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer. AACR membership includes more than 35,000 laboratory, translational, and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and patient advocates residing in 101 countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise of the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, biology, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer by annually convening more than 30 conferences and educational workshops, the largest of which is the AACR Annual Meeting with nearly 19,300 attendees. In addition, the AACR publishes eight prestigious, peer-reviewed scientific journals and a magazine for cancer survivors, patients, and their caregivers. The AACR funds meritorious research directly as well as in cooperation with numerous cancer organizations. As the Scientific Partner of Stand Up To Cancer, the AACR provides expert peer review, grants administration, and scientific oversight of team science and individual investigator grants in cancer research that have the potential for near-term patient benefit. The AACR actively communicates with legislators and other policymakers about the value of cancer research and related biomedical science in saving lives from cancer. For more information about the AACR, visit www.AACR.org.