Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is the recipient of more NIH grants than any other stand-alone cancer research center in the country.
TWO years ago I pledged that there will be curative therapies for most if not all cancers by 2025. That promise was dealt a surprising blow last weekwhen the White House called for cutting roughly one-fifth of the budget of the National Institutes of Health.
Although the potential harm may be averted as congressional leaders from both parties rally against the measure, the Trump administration’s proposal represents a failure to grasp how severe a threat cancer poses to us all. And it flies in the face of the bipartisan unity that we witnessed last year when Congress came together to approve the 21st Century Cures Act, guaranteeing more funding for research.
Cancer will strike one in three of us in our lifetime. In this year alone, 600,000 Americans will die of it. It affects all our families. We can stop these tragedies, and support for science is at the heart of the matter.
There is no doubt: The NIH has been the driving force behind remarkable and accelerating advances to cure the many different forms of this terrible disease. There are millions of people alive today thanks to the discoveries made possible by this incredible agency and the extraordinary network of scientists it supports.
At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where I serve as president and director, federally sponsored research revenues comprise close to 85 percent of our total sponsored funding. We are the recipient of more NIH grants than any other stand-alone cancer research center in the country.
We are delivering on that investment by the American people. Fred Hutch has made huge contributions in the fight against cancer. Most notably, Dr. E. Donnall Thomas advanced bone-marrow transplantation as a cure for leukemia through his work at the Hutch, and won a Nobel Prize for his efforts. That core idea — harnessing the power of the human immune system to fight cancer — is also the founding principle of the new immunotherapies the world has heard so much about of late.
President Jimmy Carter was 90 years old and had metastatic melanoma in his brain and liver. Only five years ago this would have been a death sentence. He is alive today, and cancer free, because of an immunotherapy drug, which was made possible by science supported by the NIH. This is but one of many stories of successful treatments for once untreatable cancers.
The proposed cuts — a reduction to $25.9 billion from $31.7 billion — are historic in size and scope. They guarantee a stunning reversal of progress and will cause irreparable harm to our nation’s leadership in medical science.
These unprecedented budget cuts are not just a threat to our livelihood as researchers. The terrible irony is they could not come at a worse moment for millions of patients who, I am convinced, have more reason to hope than at any time in the long course of cancer research. These cuts will lay waste to work in progress that can save lives. They will disrupt the steady and inspiring science that occurs every day in academic laboratories across the country. They will choke the flow of basic discovery and innovation that brings cures to market.
This is not a time to pull back. Personally, I have seen more progress in the last few years than in five decades of cancer research. When I first made my public statement that I believe curative therapies were in sight, some people suggested I had gone too far.
I will not go back on that commitment.
We have no choice but to fight these cuts on behalf of our patients, our families and the entire scientific community. We will work with our partner institutions, with our legislators, and with other advocacy groups to replace these proposed cuts with the funding needed to alleviate so much suffering caused by cancer.
We will rally the country behind our efforts, and we will find cures.
Information in this article, originally published March 21, 2017, was corrected March 21, 2017. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that former President Jimmy Carter had metastatic melanoma in his brain and lungs. His cancer was discovered in his liver and brain.