Hill Day Advocates Heard as Congress Secures a $2 Billion Increase

Seventy cancer center directors, administrators, physicians, researchers, patient advocates and cancer survivors, representing 27 states plus the District of Columbia, visited Capitol Hill on May 4 to urge legislators to provide stable, predictable support for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Fiscal Year 2018. Advocates participated in nearly 130 meetings with members of Congress and their staff, including leadership and key committee staff.

Hill Day was co-hosted by AACI, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). The event began with a reception the evening prior to Hill Day. Representatives André Carson (D-IN) and David McKinley (R-WV) were recognized for their outstanding support of cancer research.

Both members of Congress attended the reception to accept their awards and praised the work cancer centers and cancer researchers are doing to bring new therapies and treatments to patients battling cancer. Dr. Patrick J. Loehrer, Sr., Director of the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center located in Indianapolis introduced Representative Carson and explained how he came to Congress, filling the seat vacated by his grandmother, Representative Julia Carson, after her untimely death. Dr. Loehrer noted that Representative Julia Carson bravely battled cancer, which contributed to her grandson’s steadfast support for the NIH throughout his tenure in Congress. Representative Carson stressed to the attendees how much the award meant to him.

When accepting his award, Representative McKinley highlighted the WVU Cancer Institute in Morgantown, and noted his interest in helping the cancer center achieve NCI-designation, particularly for the people of West Virginia. Representative McKinley has been an outspoken supporter of the NIH since assuming office in 2011.

In March, Representatives Carson and McKinley, along with their colleagues, Representatives Susan Davis (D-CA) and Peter King (R-NY), led a Dear Colleague letter to House Appropriators, urging a Fiscal Year 2018 appropriation for the NIH in the amount of at least $36 billion. More than 200 House Republicans and Democrats co-signed the letter. The representatives stressed the importance of the NIH to health outcomes, education, the creation of jobs, and economic growth. They highlighted the need for Congress to make forward-thinking investments in biomedical research, as “NIH funding supports over 400,000 non-federal scientists and technical personnel at 2,500 research universities and facilities nationwide.”

Thursday morning, Hill Day kicked off with a breakfast briefing, where Representative Brett Guthrie (R-KY) stopped by to welcome the attendees and thank them for coming to Washington to advocate for biomedical research funding.

AACI President-Elect and The University of Kansas Cancer Center Director, Dr. Roy A. Jensen, introduced Representative Tom Cole (R-OK), chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies. Chairman Cole addressed the group, stressing the importance of the work taking place in cancer centers and laboratories nationwide, and reiterated his commitment to prioritizing stable, predictable funds for biomedical research. Chairman Cole played a key role in bipartisan discussions which ultimately allowed the House of Representatives to secure a $2 billion increase for the NIH in Fiscal Year 2017 the day prior to Hill Day.

Following the breakfast, AACI, AACR, and ASCO participants visited their members of Congress, thanking members of the House of Representatives for providing the NIH with a $2 billion increase in Fiscal Year 2017, and asked that they provide at least $36 billion for the NIH in Fiscal Year 2018. In the upper chamber, participants asked senators to support passage of the omnibus, to ensure a $2 billion increase in Fiscal Year 2017 for the NIH, and also requested at least $36 billion for the NIH in Fiscal Year 2018. The Senate passed the Fiscal Year 2017 omnibus including the increase for the NIH later that day, and the president signed the bill to fund the government through September on May 5.