Congressional Members and Staff Turn to NCI for Cancer Research Information
When Congress returned from its August recess, members of both chambers reached out to NCI to learn more about cancer research in a flurry of events and visits.
The rush began with a September 15 congressional briefing on ovarian cancer. Dr. Jennifer Loud of NCI's Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics was invited by the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance to address a gathering of female House members. Representatives Lois Capps (D-CA), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) participated, along with staff from other members' offices. They joined Dr. Loud and researchers from the Department of Defense in a roundtable discussion on advances in ovarian cancer diagnosis and treatment, as well as on the importance of access to appropriate and adequate care.
Staffers for Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) attended a September 19 event at the NIH Clinical Center hosted by the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) to celebrate patients and progress in cancer research. NCI's Drs. Lee Helman and W. Marston Linehan, as well as Merria Woods, a patient of Dr. Linehan's, were featured speakers. Woods talked about her experiences and those of her family when they participated in familial kidney cancer clinical studies at NCI's Center for Cancer Research (CCR). She described how they and others continue to benefit from patient participation in research.
Later that week, on September 22, NCI Director Dr. Harold Varmus met with members of the House Republican Study Committee and their staff to address questions from Congressmen Brian Bilbray (R-CA) and Michael McCaul (R-TX) about cancer clinical trial design and pediatric cancer research. The briefing was organized by the American Association for Cancer Research and coincided with the release of its Cancer Progress Report 2011.
A few blocks away, at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, Drs. Kathy Cronin and Angela Mariotto, of NCI's Surveillance Research Program, gave a presentation at the 7th Annual African American Prostate Cancer Disparity Summit, hosted by the Prostate Health Education Network and the Congressional Black Caucus. Drs. Cronin and Mariotto provided an overview of NCI's surveillance research to help participants understand prostate cancer statistics, particularly data on disparities in incidence and mortality between white and black populations in the United States.
The same morning, Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) and two members of his staff visited the NIH Clinical Center to learn more about current NCI intramural research and the unique research opportunities and capabilities afforded by the Clinical Center facility. Drs. Helman and Linehan led Senator Moran and his staff on a tour of the Clinical Center, pointing out how the close proximity of the clinic and laboratory spaces promotes the collaborative process necessary for translating laboratory discoveries into tangible benefits for patients. The senator and his staff talked with a young osteosarcoma patient who is participating in an immunotherapy protocol—an example of the kind of cutting-edge treatment that is possible at the NIH Clinical Center.
Dr. Linehan hosted another group last week, as 20 congressional staffers and 11 advocates visited the NIH Clinical Center on September 27. The group met with Dr. Linehan in his lab as part of an event coordinated by the research advocacy organization Research!America. NIH's Office of Legislative Policy and Analysis organized two parallel tours of the NIH Clinical Center that included a welcome from NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins, stops at labs at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and a meeting with a senior investigator in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's Hematology Branch.
Congressional Appropriations Committees Put Forward Labor-HHS Bills
September also brought appropriations activity in Congress. The Senate Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) marked up its appropriations bill, which includes the appropriations level for NIH, on September 20. The full Appropriations Committee voted the bill out of committee on September 21. The Senate bill proposes a $190 million (0.6 percent) reduction to the NIH budget from FY2011 levels, including a reduction of approximately $57 million (1.1 percent) for NCI from FY2011 levels. The full Senate has not yet voted on the bill.
The House Appropriations Committee released its draft FY2012 Labor-HHS bill on September 29, posting the bill and summary tables on its website. The proposal would eliminate funding for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Public Law 111-148) and proposes $31.7 billion in program funding for NIH, which is $1 billion (3.3 percent) over FY2011 levels and approximately the same as the president's budget request. The proposal includes roughly $5.2 billion in program funding for NCI, also the same as the president's budget request, which represents an increase of about $138 million (2.7 percent) over FY2011 levels. No plans for consideration of the bill have been announced.
For more information on NCI appropriations, cancer specific legislation, recently enacted public laws, and other legislative resources, visit the NCI Office of Government and Congressional Relations website.
— Stacye Bruckbauer and Holly Gibbons