Citing the unprecedented opportunity granted by last years 15% increase in biomedical research funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Joseph S. Bailes, MD, then president-elect of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), urged Congress to allocate at least the same increase for fiscal year 2000. The increase would help reach the Clinton administrations stated goal of doubling the nations commitment to biomedical research within 5 years. The administration, by contrast, has proposed a minor 2% increase in NIH funding for the coming year.
Cancer research is a complex process that, to be successful, must be sustained over time. Increases in 1 year may be to no avail if they are followed by what is, in practical terms, a reduction in the next year, said Dr. Bailes in his April 1999 testimony to the House appropriations subcommittee. The subcommittee should at least seek to replicate the 15% increase of last year.
We now stand at the brink of a new era in which discoveries about genetics and basic cell biology have created unprecedented opportunities for preventive and therapeutic strategies against cancer, said Bailes. If our commitment to clinical research flags in the face of these opportunities, the loss will be great indeed.
Lack of Access to Clinical Trials Threatens Biomedical Research
In his testimony, Dr. Bailes also cited lack of access to clinical trials as a threat to the national biomedical research effort. The Medicare Cancer Clinical Trials Coverage Act, recently introduced in the Senate, would guarantee Medicare beneficiaries coverage for the routine patient care costs associated with participating in clinical trials. Because clinical trials often represent the best possible care for people with cancer, they should not be considered experimental when it comes to insurance coverage.