U.S. panel urges more cancer research funding

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government needs to step up funding for cancer research, which has stagnated this decade, as part of an effort to make beating cancer a national priority, a presidential advisory panel said on Thursday.

The three-member panel that advises President George W. Bush on cancer-related matters issued a report detailing “troubling trends” including insufficient funding for research into new ways to treat and prevent cancer.

The report noted that the U.S. population is getting older and becoming increasingly sedentary, a recipe for more cancer cases; more than a fifth of the population still smokes; the health care system is fragmented; and policymakers have failed to grasp the urgency of making progress against cancer.

The panel urged improved coordination of efforts against cancer, better access to health care for Americans as about 45.7 million people have no health insurance, and further efforts to curb tobacco use.

“Use of clinical trials, basic research, clinical research — we must have adequate funding for that, and we will continue to push for that,” Dr. LaSalle Leffall of Howard University in Washington, who heads the President’s Cancer Panel, said in a telephone interview.

U.S. biomedical research “is being starved of funding at a pivotal juncture,” according to the report.

Funding for the National Cancer Institute, part of the U.S. government’s research-supporting National Institutes of Health, nearly doubled from 1998 to 2003, but has stagnated since.

NCI funding since 2003 has declined 16.5 percent when accounting for inflation, the American Cancer Society said. The NCI received $4.8 billion in the 2008 fiscal year.  Continued…

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