How the Sequester Hurts Cancer Patients

By John Seffrin and Michael Caligiuri

An excerpt of an op-ed by John R. Seffrin, PhD, CEO of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and Research!America Board member, and Michael A. Caligiuri, MD, director of the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center and CEO of the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute published in U.S News & World Report.

 

Michael A. Caligiuri, MD

Michael A. Caligiuri, MD

John R. Seffrin, PhD

John R. Seffrin, PhD

Clinical trials are often a patient’s only viable treatment option for surviving cancer – a disease that kills 1,500 people every day in this country. But haphazard federal budget cuts, a consequence of the so-called “sequester” that was initiated in March, threaten to stall or eliminate critical clinical trials nationwide and further threaten important basic laboratory research. For the one in two men and one in three women in America who will hear those three most dreaded words, “You have cancer,” in their lifetime, research provides more than the promise of new treatments and therapies; it offers hope for beating a disease that was once considered a virtual death sentence.

The Ohio State University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center-James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute conducts groundbreaking clinical trials for cancer research. Due to mandated federal budget cuts earlier this year, the National Cancer Institute was already forced to reduce by half the number of participants in clinical trials at OSU. Under sequestration, these trials will likely be completely eliminated this year, affecting patients undergoing treatment for leukemia, lymphoma, breast cancer and a variety of other forms of cancer.

In addition to the impact on clinical trials, there could be cuts to student and post-doctoral positions as well. The sequestration will negatively impact research, innovation and the ability to provide services and resources to patients and the university community. Equally disturbing, it will decrease opportunities for scientific advancement and job creation at the university and other research institutions nationally.

Research labs across the country were already operating on extremely lean budgets. Sequestration cuts to the bone. These across-the-board cuts are short-sighted and could have serious financial implications, not only at OSU and other universities and institutions where federal dollars have supported research, but in surrounding communities as well.

The sequester could lead to 20,500 fewer research-related jobs as research center directors are forced to eliminate existing positions, are prohibited from creating new ones, and have to scale back the purchase of research-critical supplies and equipment. Every $1 invested in cancer research yields more than $2 in economic activity for communities across the country, making the sequester’s funding reductions tantamount to a $3 billion decrease in economic activity nationally.

Read the full op-ed here.

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