In Budget Hearing, Higgins Questions Massive Cuts to Cancer Research
ring a House Budget Committee hearing with the Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan, Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) raised serious questions about the rationale of cutting hundreds of millions of dollars in cancer research funding from the 2020 budget.
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Higgins, who serves as Co-Chair of the Congressional Cancer Caucus, began his questioning addressing drastic cuts to cancer research, “Firstly, I just wanted to point out that the National Cancer Institute was seeking a $400 million increase funding over this year for next year. This was intended to bring promising new cancer treatments, particularly in the area of immunotherapy to market. As you may know, that drug discovery is a process it takes some 10 or 15 years, so when funding is delayed, promising new treatments are delayed and those promising new treatments are denied for people that are in desperate need of new, effective therapies. So, the President's budget proposes to cut $900 million from the National Cancer Institute. What is the rationale behind that cut, which is enormous, based on anybody's view of it?”
The President’s budget proposes cutting the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by $4.9 billion. Every single division of the NIH except one is being cut. The largest reduction is to cancer research with a $897 million cut to the National Cancer Institute.
Higgins noted these massive budget cuts would have a significant impact on Western New York. In 2018 alone, researchers in Congressman Higgins’ congressional district were awarded in excess of $110 million through the NIH.
Higgins added, “Government funding has been involved in about 97% of the basic science and research toward the goal of bringing promising new cancer treatments to market. In fact, the last hundred major products from Herceptin from anesthetic breast cancer, and many of the vaccines for immunotherapy are a direct result of government involvement in the financing of clinical trials that test both efficacy and safety. A cut of this amount, even when you take into account the increase funding for pediatric cancer, is still $850 million dollars. That will have a devastating impact on what NCI is able to fund to the various Cancer Institutes throughout the country including in Buffalo, New York, the nation's first Cancer Center, Roswell Park.”
“We cannot allow these drastic cuts to be implemented, just at a time when researchers at Roswell Park and other leading centers are driving so much momentum, so much promise as we make breakthrough discoveries in areas like immunotherapy and genetics,” said Candace S. Johnson, PhD, President and CEO of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. “We can’t afford to put our best ideas on hold. Patients deserve to know that the search for new, better cancer therapies is a national priority.”
Congressman Higgins is leading a bipartisan letter in the House of Representatives urging $6.522 billion for the NCI in 2020, a $378 million increase over FY2019 levels, and $1.275 billion more than the President’s 2020 budget proposes.