Federal Budget Cuts Threaten Childhood Cancer Research Funding

by Monica Fochtman
February 11, 2013

Monica Fochtman, mom to Luke, a St. Baldrick’s Foundation 2013 Ambassador, shares how the congressional budget sequester affects kids with cancer and how you can help.

I would like to introduce you to my son, Luke. He is 7 years old. He loves Star Wars, Legos, and art. He is thriving in first grade. He is an older brother, a son, a grandson, a nephew, a cousin, and a loving friend. He is also a childhood cancer survivor.

Luke was diagnosed with stage 4 embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma (ERMS), cancer of soft muscle tissue, at age 3. He endured 70 weeks of treatment, which included multiple rounds of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation.

The chemotherapy used to treat my son was developed more than 20 years ago for use in adults. Sadly, funding for childhood cancer research severely lags behind funding for adult cancers.

Kids with cancer enter the fiscal cliff debate on an already uneven playing field. Only 4% of the National Cancer Institute’s budget is dedicated to childhood cancer research, crippling research efforts and forcing the private sector to fill the funding gaps.

The proposed budget cuts will make funding childhood cancer research an even bigger challenge. These cuts have the potential to impact an entire generation of childhood cancer patients.

“These cuts have the potential to impact an entire generation of childhood cancer patients.”

The Children’s Oncology Group (COG) supports more than 8,000 pediatric cancer researchers and scientists at more than 200 children’s hospitals, universities, and cancer centers around the world, and the St. Baldrick’s Foundation is the COG’s largest funder after the U.S. government. Luke was treated at a COG hospital in Michigan, and his treatment was the direct result of a COG clinical trial.

If allowed to occur, the federal budget cuts will severely limit childhood cancer research. Staff cuts at the COG would send operations to a screeching halt. Research slated for 2013 and beyond would end, causing research delays that will have devastating repercussions for the children who are currently being treated at a COG facility and for children who are yet to be diagnosed.

My son’s life was saved with treatments developed by COG researchers. Luke continues to be monitored by a COG facility. He receives regular MRIs, x-rays, and consultations with his team of oncologists. If access is limited COG facilities and doctors, Luke and other children currently in treatment run the risk of being orphaned by the system.
My husband and I are fortunate and grateful that our son survived. Not every family gets this news. One in five children diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. will not survive . This statistic is already too high. If the budget sequester is allowed to happen, the chances of having success stories like Luke’s will be even less.

You can help. Please take a few minutes of your time and send a message to your members of Congress today and demand that they stop the budget sequester cuts. Our children deserve every chance we can give them.

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