When your family is healthy, you have many problems; whensomeoneinyourfamily is sick, you have only one
problem. That’s especially true for any family that
has faced a cancer diagnosis. In 2016, nearly 1. 7
million Americans are expected to be diagnosed
with cancer for the first time, and nearly 600,000
will lose their lives to the disease, according to
the American Cancer Society. That’s why it is
imperative that we continue prioritizing resources
to advance biomedical research and accelerate
progress toward new, groundbreaking treatments.
As chairman of the U. S. Senate Appropriations
Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human
Services (HHS), I was proud to write and pass
a funding bill last year that raised the National
Institutes of Health’s funding by $2 billion, a 6. 7
percent increase. This amount represented the
largest funding increase the NIH received in
this bill in over a decade. I’m glad to announce
we’re on track to provide another $2 billion
increase this year as part of the first bipartisan
Senate Labor/HHS appropriations bill in 7
years. This year’s bill, which was reported by
the Appropriations Committee in June, includes
more than $5.4 billion for the National Cancer
Institute (NCI), a 4 percent increase. Coupled
with last year’s funding, that represents a 9. 6
percent increase over the past 2 years for the NCI.
We achieved that increase, in part, by eliminating
36 ineffective or duplicative programs.
Together, the NIH and NCI are paving the way
for the next breakthrough in cancer research.
As a renal and prostate cancer survivor, I’m
particularly interested in the progress that’s
underway in the field of precision medicine.
Last year, we began a new Precision Medicine
Initiative, which utilizes specific genetic,
environmental, and lifestyle data to tailor
treatments to individuals. As Dr. Douglas Lowy,
the acting director at NCI, explained at a recent
hearing before the Labor/HHS Appropriations
Subcommittee, this type of research is critical for
determining how “you deliver the right drug, to
the right patient, at the right time.”
For example, a recent clinical trial for a
genetic test known as MammaPrint found
that as many as half of the patients who were
slated for chemotherapy based on traditional
clinical assessments did not actually require
the treatment. According to the study, patients
with breast cancer who underwent surgery to
remove their tumors and had a MammaPrint
score recommending against chemotherapy, had
a 95 percent survival rate. The study confirms
what I heard from doctors and researchers at
the Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis earlier
this year, who told me that developing targeted
therapies through precision medicine has the
potential to save patients unnecessary—and
often aggressive—treatmentwhile driving down
health care costs.
Federal funding for cancer research and
prevention has historically driven major
breakthroughs in the field and will continue to
play a pivotal role. The investments we make today
will not only save lives, but they’ll also lead to
new frontiers in drug and device development
that are critical for reducing health care costs,
growing our economy, and maintaining America’s
competitive edge in innovation.
Over the past decade, the NIH has lost more
than 20 percent of its research purchasing power.
I’m proud that we were able to take a step toward
bridging that gap last year. I will continue making
NIH and cancer research funding a priority in
the fiscal year ahead, in the hopes that we can
sustain an upward trajectory in biomedical
investment within the constraints of a tough
In my view, every dollar we spend should
reflect the priorities of the American people.
I can think of no greater priority than to
give hope to families battling cancer and to
help more people live longer, healthier lives.
I’m incredibly grateful for the treatment
I received and the researchers and doctors who
made my recovery possible. I will continue fighting
to give all Americans the same opportunity.
ROY BLUNT \\ U.S. SENATOR FOR MISSOURI \\
E SENATE APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE ON LABOR,
AN SERVICES, EDUCATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES. \\ AGE 66