More Funding of Cancer Research Crucial for Continued Advancements

November 6, 2020
Jason Harris

Over the years, cancer treatments that have improved patients outcomes have come out of clinical trial research. These studies have greatly contributed to the decline in cancer mortality in the United States since 1975, as well as the global cancer burden and mortality rate. During a presentation for the 38th Annual Chemotherapy Foundation Symposium (CFS), Clifford A. Hudis, MD, explained the need for monetary investment in research initiatives.

Over the years, cancer treatments that have improved patients outcomes have come out of clinical trial research. These studies have greatly contributed to the decline in cancer mortality in the United States since 1975, as well as the global cancer burden and mortality rate. During a presentation for the 38th Annual Chemotherapy Foundation Symposium (CFS), Clifford A. Hudis, MD, explained the need for monetary investment in research initiatives.

Hudis, the CEO of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), highlighted the importance of government funding to support the clinical investigations needed to advance care during a keynote lecture Thursday at the 38th Annual CFS®. Hudis said ASCO has played a major role in advocating for research funding since its founding in 1964 and is committed to continuing those efforts.

In discussing broad trends affecting cancer incidence, Hudis noted that extreme poverty has plunged for most of the world since the 1800s. At the same time, people are living longer. Overall life expectancy in the United States was 54.5 years in 1915 and 78.6 years in 2017, according to the US Census Bureau.1

There is a “clear association with a country’s GDP [gross domestic product] and the rates of common solid tumors like breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and lung cancer,” Hudis said. “As a country gains wealth and its GDP rises, the incidence of those malignancies goes up.

“The longer people live, the more of those cancers you will see,” he added. “That, in turn, means that the demand for the kinds of support that ASCO can provide is only going to go up in the years ahead.”

Hudis also said that improvements in cancer mortality are not evenly distributed. Women are more likely to survive than men and wealthy populations have better prognoses than patients who are poor. Hudis noted, too, that survival among Black Americans lags behind their White counterparts and that Americans living in rural areas are at greater risk than those in metropolitan areas. Globally, the gaps in incidence and mortality between Americans and rest of the world are growing.

Meanwhile, advances in screening and detection and the ability to survive other causes of mortality such as infections and accidents are contributing to an increase in cancer incidence and deaths globally, a trend that started in the early 2000s and is expected to continue until 2030, Hudis said. “To confront that, we have to invest,” he said.

Disparities in care, the expected growth in cancer incidence and deaths, and the need to invest in research have prompted ASCO to expand its vision and make a global impact on the burden of cancer.

Hudis said federal funding for the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) declined in real dollars from 2004 to 2016, contending that neither major political party was interested in supporting scientific investment.

“I take extreme exception to this decision that was made in the United States,” Hudis said. “One of the key things to recognize is that American exceptionalism since World War II is at least in part related to our steady and unprecedented national investment in science and research that gave us the technology breakthroughs that have really fueled an American century.”

Since that time, federal money going toward scientific and medical research has stabilized thanks to efforts of ASCO and others. Hudis added that funding has increased if one includes support such as the NCI’s Cancer Moonshot program.2

“And this is bipartisan–Republicans and Democrats equally claim credit for the success,” he said. “If you go to Washington, you bang on doors and you have rational conversations, you will not change [minds] in one moment. But over time, you can have an impact.”

ASCO’s goal, he said, to lead the world in the delivery of information and providing the diverse expertise the global oncology community needs to reduce the burden of cancer. “We are focused on improving quality and outcomes, and those are the mountains that we really seek to move with your support.

References:

1. Arias E, Xu J. United States Life Tables, 2017. Natl Vital Stat Rep. 2019;68(7):1-66.

2. NCI Funding Trends. National Cancer Institute. December 20, 2018. Accessed November 5, 2020. https://cancer.gov/about-nci/budget/fact-book/historical-trends/funding