​​​​​Cancer Policy Monitor​: March 1, 2016

Regulatory Science and Science Policy Sessions at the Annual Meeting​
Cancer Research Policy Forum
Senate Confirms New Commissioner of FDA​
AACR to Co-host Joint Hill Day

​​​AACR Hosts Inaugural Early Career Scientist Hill Day

On Feb. 24, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) convened the inaugural AACR Early Career Scientist Hill Day, bringing 15 early career scientists from across the United States to Capitol Hill to share their personal stories about how they have been affected by the funding environment and to advocate for increased medical research funding. Young investigators have been disproportionately affected by the lack of growth in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget from 2004 to 2015, and the individuals selected to participate in the hill day are part of a group of more than 14,000 graduate students, medical students and residents, and clinical and postdoctoral fellows who comprise the associate membership of the AACR. 

"Many of my colleagues are choosing non-research careers because of inadequate and unpredictable funding for biomedical research. These are the next generation of cancer researchers, and if we lose them, we lose progress in the fight against cancer."  – Shane R. Stecklein, MD, PhD, Hill Day participant and resident, Department of Radiation Oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Today, the chance of receiving a research grant from the National Cancer Institute is less than 15 percent, which is just more than half of the success rate in 2003. On average, a researcher today will not receive their first independent research grant (termed an "R01") until they are in their early 40s, compared to their mid-to-late 30s in the 1990s. In fact, only three percent of R01-recipients were under the age of 36 in 2010. For researchers just beginning their careers, securing a federally funded research grant is essential.  The loss of purchasing power for the NIH and NCI resulting from budget cuts and failure to keep pace with inflation has translated into record-low success rates for grant applications and has also had significant effects on established researchers. The subsequent failure of even previously funded independent investigators to renew a grant can leave them unable to support their trainees, postdoctoral scientists, and laboratory staff: 

"My PI was forced to let all senior graduate students go on short notice because there was a lack of grant funds to continue paying our salaries. Even now, junior students in the lab are struggling to afford basic research supplies despite applying for grants in every funding cycle for the past two years." – AACR Early Career Hill Day Participant.​

The Hill Day participants thanked Congress for the inclusion of a $2 billion increase for the NIH in the fiscal year (FY) 2016 omnibus bill, which was a strong sign of momentum for the support medical research funding. However, reversing the effects of more than a decade of flat funding will require a commitment to continued, predictable growth in FY 2017 and beyond. Early career investigators represent the future of the cancer research field, but without the support of federal funding for the NIH and NCI, many careers are at the risk of ending before they begin. No one is more capable of conveying this powerful message to Congress than young scientists themselves, speaking to personal experiences that they and their colleagues have experienced. Through efforts like the Early Career Hill Day, the AACR continues to show strong support for young cancer investigators, and by helping to train the next generation of medical research advocates, the AACR is strengthening the collective voice of the research community calling for robust, sustained, and predictable funding increases for the NIH.

"Fostering a dialogue between young scientists and policymakers is extremely important. Through my meetings with congressional offices, I was encouraged to learn that legislators are aware and concerned about the exceptionally competitive funding situation being faced by researchers, and are working towards alleviating this problem by increasing the NIH budget."
– Jennifer C. Shing, PhD, Hill Day participant, postdoctoral fellow, Mayo Clinic.

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​Regulatory Science and Science Policy Sessions at the AACR Annual Meeting 2016

​Owing to the importance of regulatory science and science policy issues to cancer research, the AACR Annual Meeting 2016, which will be held in New Orleans from April 16-20, will feature 13 sessions addressing key issues in these fields.

This year's science policy sessions will include a Town Hall event with the AACR Office of Science Policy and Government Affairs; a policy session discussing the importance of research on electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), including the composition of e-liquid, health effects on the user and those exposed to secondhand aerosol, and how that research informs regulations; and the impact of  ​​the Affordable Care Act on cancer research, care, and prevention.

​Regulatory science and policy sessions will include symposia on early-phase expansion cohorts, next generation sequencing (NGS) technologies and the precision medicine initiative, and a review of recent breakthrough therapies approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In addition, educational sessions on Saturday, April 16 will cover topics including NGS-based oncology panels and FDA's approaches to regulating biosimilars and companion and complementary diagnostics.

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Live Webcast Registration Available for March 7 Cancer Research Policy Forum Co-hosted by AACR 

On March 7, 2016, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and Moffitt Cancer Center will​ co-host an event with support from the Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI) and in cooperation with ​the Honorable Gus Bilirakis and the Honorable Kathy Castor to rally congressional support for and raise public awareness of groundbreaking cancer research that is taking place at Moffitt Cancer Center and throughout the nation thanks to federal fu​nding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Because of the considerable interest in this program, the event will be webcast live starting at 10 a.m. EST. Register here to receive instructions on how to connect to the webcast.

The event will feature a distinguished panel of speakers, including Douglas R. Lowy, MD, acting director, National Cancer Institute and two members of the U.S. House of Representatives from Florida: Rep. Gus Bilirakis  and Rep. Kathy Castor.

​The topics to be covered will include the national cancer initiative to be led by Vice President Biden, the Precision Medicine Initiative, current priorities for the NCI, congressional efforts such as the 21st Century Cures legislation, and a patient's perspective on the progress being made in cancer research and treatment.

Register for the live webcast.

Do​wnload the event flyer.

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​U.S. Senate Confirms Robert Califf, MD as New Commissioner of FDA

​On Feb. 24, Robert Califf, MD was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to be the new commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Despite ​the vocal opposition of a few senators, Califf was easily confirmed by a vote of 89-4. Califf replaces Margaret Hamburg, MD, who stepped down in March 2015. 

The AACR had endorsed Califf's nomination.

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AACR to Co-host Joint Hill Day to Advocate for Continued Congressional Support for Medical Research 

​On May 12, the AACR will once again partner with the Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) to build congressional support for federal research supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and to advocate for robust, sustained, and predictable funding increases for the NIH and NCI in fiscal year (FY) 2017 and beyond. 

In 2015, the AACR-AACI-ASCO Hill Day brought more than 70 researchers, oncologists, and other cancer research advocates to Capitol Hill, where they participated in more than 130 congressional meetings, including meetings with key House and Senate leadership. Participants called on lawmakers to support funding increases for the NIH and the NCI to continue to make​​​​ progress in the fight against cancer. 

In addition to the day of congressional meetings, the partnering organizations hosted a reception the evening before where they honored champions of cancer research and biomedical science. Last year, Senators Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) were recognized for their outstanding leadership and tireless efforts in advocating for predictable and robust funding increases for cancer research through the NIH and NCI.

For more information or to register for the Joint Hill Day, please contact James Ingram.

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