Sequestration Would Set-Back Cancer Research
and Impede Medical Progress
If Congress fails to act, funding for the NIH will be cut by about $2.4 billion or approximately 8% in January 2013 as a result of the
automatic across-the-board cuts (or sequestration) required by the Budget Control Act of 2011. The estimated cut for NCI alone is
$396 million. These cuts would be in addition to any reductions made in the regular funding process for fiscal year 2013.
A cut of this magnitude would, according to NIH Director Francis Collins, adversely affect every aspect of the agency’s work and
would be particularly difficult for first-time investigators. A report by Sen. Tom Harkin, chairman of the Senate Appropriations
Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education warned that these cuts would mean missed opportunities for
scientific discovery that could lead to improvements in human health (136). Additionally, this report notes that other agencies such
as the FDA and CDC also face considerable cuts. As a result, the ability to protect the public health of Americans will be significantly
diminished—for example, it is estimated that these cuts would lead to 35,000 fewer women being screened for breast and cervical
cancer. HHS also expressed deep concerns that the cuts would “limit the Department’s ability to accelerate scientific knowledge
and innovation (137).
Impact of an NIH and NCI Sequester
Current Funding level $30.6 billion $5.07 billion
2013 across-the-board cut ( 7.8% ) -$2.4 billion -$396 million
Potential 2013 level $28.2 billion $4.674 billion
Potential Reductions in NIH grants - 2,300 -300
Potential U.S. Job loss - 33,000 - 5,500
Reduced economic activity -$4.5 billion -$740 million
For information on the current status of NIH funding go to: www.cancerprogressreport.org/FederalFunding.aspx
“devastating,” adding that if this occurred “ 2,300 grants that NIH
had planned to fund could not be awarded.” In addition, Dr. Collins
said that this would result in success rates falling to historically low
levels and would be devastating for many investigators, particularly
first-time investigators who are seeking to get their programs up
What is so concerning is that this threat of draconian cuts to the
NIH is occurring at a time where the potential for acceleration of
discoveries in cancer research have never been greater. Federal
investments in basic research have enabled the Nation’s scientists
to build upon each other’s work and make substantial progress in
preventing, detecting, diagnosing and treating cancer, but the
prospect of significant cuts threatens to undercut this momentum.
The initial scientific breakthrough that ultimately led to the cancer
chemotherapeutic drug imatinib occurred in the 1950s, but with
the available technology and understanding available at that time, it
took 40 years to convert that basic science discovery into a life-saving treatment. Today, thanks to the knowledge that research has
provided about both normal and cancer cell biology, as well as
advances in technology, the time from basic discovery to an
effective treatment is now much shorter. For example, the
development and FDA approval of two recent targeted cancer drugs
approved in 2011, took as little as nine and four years (Fig. 24 p.
86). Reduced funding in this era would also mean arrested and
abandoned research (see Sidebar on Sequestration) when we are
best able to reap the benefits of our prior investments.
“I think the biggest innovations of the 21st century will be at the intersection of biology and
technology. A new era is beginning.”
Founder of Apple, Inc.