The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor Health and Human Services is expected to consider draft legislation that includes drastic cuts to federal cancer research funding for the first time in 11 years, threatening current and future progress in the fight against cancer. The bill would also undercut cancer prevention and early detection with reductions to proven cancer control programs.

The House spending bill includes a $3.8 billion cut for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including a $216 million cut for the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and a $1 billion cut for the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H).

“We’re gravely concerned by the dangerous cuts to cancer research proposed in this bill that would curtail impactful research and undoubtedly threaten future progress against cancer,” said Dr. Karen E. Knudsen, CEO of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). “There is a clear relationship between investment in cancer research and the observed reduced mortality rates in the United States, dropping year over year since 1991. Now is not the time to slow momentum.”

Cancer research in particular is one of the most dynamic areas of scientific research within NIH. Between FY 2013 and FY 2022, the number of unique RO1/R36 grant applications to NCI rose by 45% while it rose by just 20% for all other Institutes. In addition to the concerning cuts to research, the House bill also cuts funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by $1.6 billion, including the elimination of funding for tobacco prevention and control. If enacted, state departments of health won’t have critical resources to address tobacco addiction or implement prevention education in communities nationwide. Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death in the US, accounting for about 1 in 5 deaths each year.

“The cuts in this bill would not only prevent future discovery for the cancers where we don’t have answers but add insult to injury by undermining our ability to leverage past investment to apply what we know works to prevent and detect cancer earlier when it is less expensive to treat, and survival chances are greater. Cuts directly threaten to reverse decades of progress of scientific advancements that have brought us to a critical moment today where more lives are saved, more people are screened and more people have a fighting chance to survive one of our nation’s leading diseases,” said Lisa Lacasse, president of ACS CAN. “We urge the Subcommittee to work in a bipartisan way to reject these proposed cuts and to instead prioritize robust increases that protect the nation’s research foundation that has ignited lifesaving advancements for those touched by cancer, and solidified our country’s status as an international leader in research. Far too much is at risk if we roll the clock back.”

This story was published by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network on July 14, 2023. It is republished with permission.