Seventy-one years ago today, this nation was attacked. It was a surprise attack. Many brave young warriors died. The Greatest Generation responded by mobilizing the nation. A war was fought where many brave young men and women made the ultimate sacrifice. Ultimately, the United States prevailed.

Much like Pearl Harbor, childhood cancer is a surprise to much of this nation. But this surprise does not make front page news; although many brave young children die. They continue
to fight the war and many, many are lost. But for us to prevail in this war, the nation must be called to action.

We, whatever generation we collectively belong to, have failed these brave young children.

They were protected in World War II from warfare; the country does not expect children to be warriors. Yet we continue to refer to our children afflicted by cancer as warriors. They are not warriors, they are children. My children. Your children. The ones we as parents have sworn to ourselves to protect at any cost. The one’s we would give our life's for.

Yet instead, the isolationists rule. Our focus is drawn to issues which, while seemingly important, do not kill our children. Our focus is drawn to issues which protect ourselves; while stealing from precious resources that may protect our children from this surprise attacker.

We are selfish. We, whatever generation we collectively belong to, have up-armored ourselves. We fight with seemingly unlimited resources (96% of National Cancer Institute funding) against our personal attackers. And our children are given the used battlefield equipment.

It would not be acceptable in a war; on a sinking ship; or if an intruder entered our homes. Why is it acceptable in the war against cancer?


 

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is the Federal Government's principal agency for cancer research and the largest funder of childhood cancer research.   

 

If you recall, last year, our post on the NCI's Pediatric Cancer Research and Pediatric Cancer-Related Activities Report discussed NCI's response to a direct statement from Congress saying "intensify pediatric cancer research" and a direct question from Congress asking for a report "on the actions it has taken to implement the research-specific portions of the Caroline Pryce Walker Conquer Childhood Cancer Act". NCI essentially replied..."we've got it covered" and was commended by Congress. Our interpretation of the NCI response, NCI Funding: more lies, damn lies and statistics...disagreed with the NCI---they simply don’t have it covered until no child dies of childhood cancer.

 

So let’s see what happened this year. Again, looking at the NCI’s 2012 budget request, the Senate Appropriations Committee asked NCIabout childhood cancer research (which is good news as only 10 cancer issues were highlighted in the review):

The Committee notes that childhood cancer research accounts for less than 5 percent of the Institute's annual budget and encourages NCI to increase that amount, as cancer remains the leading cause of disease related death in children. More effective and less toxic treatments are needed.

 

And again the NCI responded:

NCI must give full attention to the clinical consequences of every cancer type, and we also must be responsive to the opportunities and ideas that seem likely to offer the best chances of making discoveries that bring us closer to understanding and reducing the burden from all cancers. While much of our research, especially our clinical and translational research, is focused on specific cancers, NCI does not apportion a set amount of funding to be used for any specific type of cancer, including pediatric cancers. Funding levels are dependent on the number of research project grant applications and the quality of those proposals, as determined by rigorous peer review.

In recent history, about 4% of the NCI’s total funding has been invested specifically in pediatric cancer research efforts across the nation. In fiscal year 2009, NCI provided $192.8 million for pediatric cancer research and an additional $47.2 million from its American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) allotment. In fiscal year 2010, NCI invested $199.8 million in this research, with an additional $13.2 million from ARRA funds. In fiscal year 2011, NCI’s estimated investment was $197 million. However, the 4% estimate does not reflect the NCI’s investment into basic research on cancer mechanisms that contributes heavily to the understanding of all cancers.

NCI supports a comprehensive pediatric cancer research program, ranging from basic molecular projects through preclinical testing and clinical trials to epidemiological studies to identify potential factors associated with childhood cancer development. Pediatric cancer features prominently in our most innovative and high-profile research efforts such as the TARGET (Childhood Cancer Therapeutically Applicable Research to Generate Effective Treatment) Initiative, a public-private partnership harnessing genomics technology to identify molecular targets to diagnose and treat childhood cancers more precisely, effectively, and safely than ever before. The NCI-supported Pediatric Preclinical Testing Program (PPTP) systematically generates pre-clinical data about promising new agents and combinations of agents for childhood cancers. Research underway through NCI’s intramural pediatric oncology program spans basic, translational, and clinical trials focused on drug development of targeted agents, genomics, immunotherapy, imaging research, and psychosocial research. Studies also continue to examine increased risk of subsequent cancers and late toxicity of treatment in survivors of childhood cancer. NCI investigators and extramural collaborators are conducting a follow-up study of long-term childhood cancers to evaluate subsequent cancers and several chronic disease outcomes.

NCI funds significant extramural research efforts through the NCI Cooperative Children’s Oncology Group (COG), an NCI Cooperative Group that develops and coordinates pediatric cancer clinical trials that are available at over 200 member institutions, including cancer centers throughout the United States and Canada. NCI also leverages resources by partnering to conduct international trials, which allows researchers to learn more quickly whether new treatments are more effective than current treatments. Finally, an important feature of the NCI research program is its work addressing the special issues faced by childhood cancer survivors. NCI is supporting the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS), a collaboration of 27 institutions working to learn more about the late effects of childhood cancer treatment.

 

That’s it.

 

That’s the entire national debate we can find between Congress and the NCI on the appropriate funding level for investment into childhood cancer research.

 

There wasn’t even a follow-up question? Like, “Thank you, but is that a yes or a no?"  Or, “Thank you, while these are wonderful highlights to your childhood cancer program, why are you not prioritizing saving the life’s of children in your overall cancer research program, as this country does in every other social and national endeavor?”

 

While I did drop third year calculus, I can do the addition for the Committee and determine the effect of its (Congress) encouraging NCI to increase childhood cancer funding

 

 

NCI Investment into Childhood Cancer Research

2009

$240 million

2010

$213 million

2011

$197 million

2025

<$10 million at the current rate of decline

 

 

So, the answer from NCI is -- No, we are not accepting your encouragement to increase the 4% of our funding that goes to childhood cancers research as compared to the 96% that goes to adult cancers.

 

Incredibly, the NCI reports that incidence of childhood cancer has increased over the last 30 years and its response is to decrease funding of childhood cancer research by 18% over the last 3 years? And all the while, from 2008 to 2010 increasing the funding for breast cancer research 10% (from $572.6 to $631.2 million) and increasing the funding for prostate cancer research 5% (from $285.4 to $300.5 million)! And remember, industry research makes up 60% of research into adult cancers and virtually ZERO percent of childhood cancer research.  I just don't understand.

 

All we can say is…..Dear Director Varmus --- “Why?”

 

More to follow next month....

 

 

 

 

Artist – Jessica, sister to Kelsie, forever 14

 

 

 

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Replies to This Discussion

Great report

I think it is time to start lobbying for a National Pediatric Cancer Institute if NCI isn't able to handle the responsibility.

Thank you for this report showing that and attached drawing.  If COG's entire budget is $46 M, I wonder how much of that is the "extramural" support from NCI?  If NCI continues to insist to congress it's budget is sufficient for childhood cancers via all the programs it supports, I would like to see a table of dollar amounts it devotes to each of the programs mentioned.  Do they include all those "intramural and extramural" programs into their total support dollars, and if so, then WHY the annual decline is the correct question - not a few paragraphs of words supporting their position.  How can American citizens contribute $600 M to St. Jude's research every year yet our government contribute 1/3 that for the entire nation's efforts?  

 government BS, we have to ge these liars out of office!!!!!

 

Hi,

I was wondering where you got your numbers regarding the NCI funding for years from 2007 on... I am doing a research paper on Childhood cancer research funding and I love the information you have here.

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