Former House Aging Committee Director Robert Weiner and George Washington University Professor Dr. Patricia Berg , a GWU Medical Center cancer laboratory director, make the case that "You can't sequester cancer. You can only hurt the research that treats and prevents it, and stop the treatments themselves." In an article in today's Washington Times, Weiner and Berg say, "That is the message of 18,000 scientists gathered for the American Association for Cancer Research's annual convention this week in Washington."
Weiner and Berg say, "Those thousands of scientists-- usually wonky researchers poring over their microscopes -- held a 'Rally for Medical Research' on the grounds of the Carnegie Library across from the Washington Convention Center. In rhythm to drumbeats, the scientists became political advocates as they chanted after each speaker, 'More Progress! More Hope! More Life!'"
Argue Weiner and Berg: "Cancer is neither Democratic nor Republican. 1.6 million people a year get it, according to the National Institutes for Health. 40,000 women each year die from breast cancer alone. Cancer mortality -- to be clear, that means the number who die from the disease -- has been reduced by one-third over the past three decades-- largely from the research that has produced new drugs, treatments, prevention strategies, and knowledge about better diet and living habits. Still, one of two men, and one of three women, will contract cancer sometime in their lives, and then becomes subject to 'the vortex of disbelief and fear,' as one speaker explained."
The authors contend, "When we sequester the research -- stop it dead in its tracks so no additional advances can be made by scientists who are on the cutting edge -- we are cutting off our nose to spite our face."
They continue, "The USA has been the leader in cancer research. A full quarter of the 18,000 scientists at the convention were from foreign countries -- 75 countries. That is because of our current leadership. China is not sequestering. They already are taking enough of our trade, science, and technology. Do we want our health research leadership to transfer to China -- or to any other country?"
Berg and Weiner called the cuts through sequestration "devastating. Speaker after speaker pointed out that NIH has lost 20% in real dollars after inflation over the past decade and that grant support is at its lowest ever." They quote Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee: "While we retreat, other countries copy our successful past model, to help their economies."
They contend, "The reason for the failure to end the sequester is that Washington is insulated. In addition, there has been nowhere near enough of a public outcry to have impact. Happily, the push to end the sequester against cancer treatment and research is bipartisan."
Rep. John Porter (R-IL), who served for 21 years in Congress and now is Chair of Research America, argued to the crowd: "We played nice. So it's time to get mad, to get militantly moderate." Dr. Margaret Foti , AACR's CEO, said the group decided that "it's time to put an unprecedented spotlight on ending the set of diseases called cancer at the earliest time."
The rally was not limited to cancer. People spoke who are now living with HIV, leukemia, diabetes, heart disease, breast cancer, stroke, and an Alzheimer's caregiver. They said they are all "survivors because of medical research."
Weiner and Berg argue, "Sequestration is stopping children from having preschool, blocking our roads and bridges from repairs, and cutting nutrition programs. But perhaps the clearest indication of the stupidity of Washington's gridlock and ineptness is reports of Medicare cancer clinics having to turn away a third of their patients from chemotherapy -- literally sentencing them to death."
Rally moderator Cokie Roberts , herself a cancer survivor, said that "there could not be a stupider time to cut back on medical research. On the cusp of breakthroughs, it's time to push forward, not back." Then she, too, led the chant.
Weiner and Berg call for action: "Democrats are convinced defense cuts can't happen, and Republicans are sure social program cuts won't occur, without the bludgeon of the sequester. OK, the bludgeon has happened. So now, cuts on both sides can rationally take place. President Obama, much to the chagrin of most Democrats, rightly or wrongly, has acquiesced to reducing Social Security's cost-of-living increases. Republicans have surprisingly agreed on hundreds of millions in defense cuts. Now, hopefully, Congress could finally just get along."
They conclude, "Cancer affects all -- and so does the sequester against its research. It's time for Congress to end the sequester."