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AACR Calls on Congress to Take Steps to Resolve the Significant Funding Challenges at the NCI

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) President David A. Tuveson, MD, PhD, FAACR, sent a letter on behalf of the AACR’s Board of Directors and its more than 48,000 members to the chairs and ranking members of the U.S. House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Labor, Health & Human Services. The letter requests that they provide the National Cancer Institute (NCI) with a funding level that is sufficient for the Institute to increase its payline and its success rate for investigator-initiated research project grants (RPGs), which are currently at alarmingly low levels of 11th percentile and 12.8 percent, respectively.  

“As discussions begin on Capitol Hill to determine the federal budget for Fiscal Year 2022, we thank Chairpersons DeLauro and Murray and Ranking Members Cole and Blunt for their extraordinary dedication to the NIH,” said Tuveson. “Despite their enormous accomplishments in supporting medical research, the NCI is now only able to fund approximately one out of every eight highly promising proposals; this means that a significant amount of potentially lifesaving cancer science and medicine is being left unexplored.”

The NCI’s extremely low payline (11th percentile) and concerning success rate (12.8 percent) for investigator-initiated RPGs are primarily attributable to the remarkable advances in cancer research that have stimulated an unprecedented 50 percent increase in the number of RPG applications to the NCI since FY2013. This exceptionally challenging funding environment at the NCI discourages talented young scientists from pursuing careers in cancer research, thereby undermining the United States’ leadership position in the field.

To address this situation, Tuveson called on the subcommittees to meet or exceed the $7.6 billion that is specified in the NCI Annual Plan & Budget Proposal for FY2022 so the United States can support more innovative research proposals that have the potential to accelerate advances in the field and improve treatments for patients with cancer. At this funding level, the NCI could raise its payline for RPGs to the 12th percentile, bringing the agency closer to NCI Director Norman “Ned” Sharpless’ goal of achieving a payline at the 15th percentile by FY2025.

“There has never been a more propitious time in the history of cancer research,” said AACR Chief Executive Officer Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc). “Therefore, we are confident that our four champions in Congress who have prioritized funding for medical research during the past six years will take the necessary actions to raise NCI’s payline and increase its success rate, as they are well aware that the current situation has real consequences for the cancer research community and our ability to recruit, train, and retain the next generation of cancer scientists.”

To learn more about the AACR, its policy and advocacy work, and the importance of robust, sustained, and predictable federal funding for biomedical and cancer research, visit the AACR website.