In March of this year, things could look different, drastically different for children with cancer.
It may not be noticed within a week, or two, or more, but eventually, the ghost in the room will be hard to ignore.
Congress is now facing the challenge that’s been haunting them: where and how to cut from the budget since the Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (the “Super Committee”) did not reach an agreement as to how to cut $1.2 trillion from the 2011 budget.
What’s been proposed? Automatic across-the-board cuts that affect every federal program budget. A 8.2 percent cut has been proposed for federal research agencies, which include the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and in turn, the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and also the Food and Drug Administration – departments that, as a supporter for kids with cancer, should greatly concern you.
How does this impact kids with cancer? Let’s take a closer look.
With only 4 percent of the current NIH/NCI budget dedicated to childhood cancer research, children with cancer enter this debate on an uneven playing field. This small amount already cripples the childhood cancer research community to the point of significant dependence on the private sector, but the budget sequester has the potential to impact an entire generation of childhood cancer patients.
If the sequester cuts indicated for NIH/NCI were to occur, it would set off a disastrous domino effect for the Children’s Oncology Group – the innovative research engine that unites more than 8,000 pediatric oncology physician researchers at more than 200 children’s hospitals, universities, and cancer centers around the world.
- Research scheduled for 2013 would be halted, meaning that projects slated for 2014, 2015 and beyond would be cut.
- Staff cuts would cause the intricate workings of the COG to freeze.
- If COG operations were to halt, it would take years to restore the COG to the current pace of operations.
- Children with cancer would be unable to access clinical trials, medical discoveries that improve the lives of children will be stifled, and promising research on childhood cancer cures will grind to a halt.
Sequester cuts would seriously impede the FDA’s drug approval process for patients of all ages.
- Children with cancer are especially vulnerable, as they receive oncology drugs originally developed for adult patients. The toxicity of these drugs causes severe side effects and extreme long-term effects in these young patients.
- With only two drugs approved by the FDA specifically for children with cancer in the last 20 years, new, highly-targeted therapies are desperately needed to treat pediatric cancers.
Time isn’t a luxury enjoyed by children with cancer – “Justin’s life depends on the next therapy that comes out. Not the one that comes out in a year, but the one that comes out in a week,” says Lori Miller. Justin, age 9, has fought neuroblastoma five times, and is defying the odds – but without research, his future is compromised. It is up to us to speak up for kids with cancer who are too young to speak up for themselves.
Please take the next few minutes – and I promise, it will only take you mere minutes – to contact your members of Congress and ask them to make our children a priority.