WASHINGTON, May 15, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, one of the nation's top cancer research and prevention centers and pioneer of bone marrow and stem cell transplantation, today called on Congress to support restoring full funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which supports pioneering research that saves lives. Funding was recently cut due to sequestration.
The U.S. Senate Subcommittee of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education today held a hearing for fiscal year 2014 budget request for NIH, during which Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, emphasized the importance of restoring funding to pre-sequestration levels in order to support medical research that has and will continue to lead to better medical care as well as stimulate the economy.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), chair of the Senate Budget committee, reiterated her support to fully replace sequestration through the federal budget process with a mix of revenue and spending cuts that won't hurt crucial programs like cancer research.
"Across the board cuts to critical programs like cancer research are terrible for our country and our economy, and today's hearing reinforces the need for a balanced approach to replace sequestration," Murray said. "I've seen firsthand the positive and lasting impact that NIH funds have had in Washington state for patients with cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer's. These investments save lives, create jobs, and drive innovation, and NIH funding is crucial to making new breakthroughs."
Larry Corey, M.D., president and director of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, welcomed the hearing, saying, "Today's hearing is another step toward restoring full funding for NIH. Congress must act quickly to fully replace sequestration to restore funding from these cuts. The impacts of sequestration are real: measurable in lost jobs, lost discoveries, lost years of scientific progress and most importantly, lost lives. The strength of our nation's global research leadership is being undermined by the sequestration of medical research funding."
Murray recently toured Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and held a roundtable with researchers, patient advocates and former patients about funding for NIH. Stories of survival were shared by patients who received medical treatment that would not exist had NIH not funded the necessary research. During the roundtable, researchers from Fred Hutch, University of Washington and Seattle Children's Research Institute also made it clear that the funding cuts to NIH threaten to derail a generation of young scientists on the verge of new discoveries.
"NIH has played a central role in our major discoveries at Fred Hutch, including bone marrow transplantation, immunotherapy, radiolabeled antibodies, and the Women's Health Initiative's pivotal progress against breast cancer," Corey said. "All are high-impact discoveries that continue to save lives, discoveries that never would have happened without NIH funding."
Funding for NIH has been flat for the past decade, with the NIH budget now about 20 percent lower than it was in 2003. Sequestration reduced the NIH budget even further, by more than 5 percent. These cuts threaten the research economy and patients.
If the sequester funding levels stay in place, across the country, 20,000 high-skilled workers and researchers could lose their jobs, according to estimates. In Washington state, which is a leading recipient of NIH grants, sequestration will mean more than $43 million in cuts for medical research. It is projected that the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center alone will see funding fall from $441 million in the 2012 fiscal year to $400 million in the 2014 fiscal year, a decline of more than 9 percent.
"We appreciate Senator Murray's leadership to restore funding to the NIH," Corey said. "The Hutch and the research community in Washington state will continue to work closely with her, her colleagues in the Senate and key leaders in the House to fully replace sequestration's cuts to research funding that is vital to our economy, better care and treatment, and saving lives."
At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, home to three Nobel laureates, interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists seek new and innovative ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases. Fred Hutch's pioneering work in bone marrow transplantation led to the development of immunotherapy, which harnesses the power of the immune system to treat cancer with minimal side effects. An independent, nonprofit research institute based in Seattle, Fred Hutch houses the nation's first and largest cancer prevention research program, as well as the clinical coordinating center of the Women's Health Initiative and the international headquarters of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network. Private contributions are essential for enabling Fred Hutch scientists to explore novel research opportunities that lead to important medical breakthroughs. For more information visit www.fredhutch.org or follow Fred Hutch on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.
SOURCE Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center