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AACR Mourns the Loss of Former Congressman John Edward Porter

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is deeply saddened by the loss of former Congressman John Edward Porter, who passed away Friday, June 3, at the age of 87.  

During his distinguished 21-year career as a U.S. Congressman from the 10th district in Illinois, Porter had a global impact on cancer research. From 1995 to 2000, Porter served as chair of the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, which is the subcommittee that is responsible for allocating funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It was in this role that Porter established his status as one of the most influential supporters of cancer research and biomedical science in U.S. history. 

In 1995, when many lawmakers were voting to reduce the budget of most government agencies, Porter adamantly opposed the plan and assembled a team of medical researchers and business leaders to convince the Speaker of the House to reject the proposed 25 percent funding reduction for the NIH. After that meeting, former Speaker Newt Gingrich called the proposed reduction a mistake. Following the halt in funding cuts, Porter committed to doubling the NIH budget, a historic initiative that has resulted in significant advancements in biomedical research and patient care.

“The AACR extends its deepest condolences to Congressman Porter’s family, friends, and colleagues as they mourn the passing of a loved and respected statesman and a true champion of medical research,” said AACR Chief Executive Officer Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc). “His extraordinary courage and determination to convince his colleagues in Congress to invest in science and medical research has dramatically improved public health and saved an incalculable number of lives, not only in the U.S., but also around the world.”

In 2011, Porter received the inaugural AACR Award for Distinguished Service and Global Impact in Cancer and Biomedical Research in recognition of his significant and sustained contributions to cancer and biomedical research, including his leadership of the effort to double the budget of the NIH. Throughout the past 10 years, Porter has contributed in many significant ways to the Rally for Medical Research, an initiative the AACR has organized since 2013 to raise awareness about the critical need to steadily increase investments in the NIH to improve health, spur more progress, inspire more hope, and save more lives.

After leaving Congress, Porter served in many distinguished roles at Research!America. He was a member of the Institute of Medicine. He also received more than 275 awards for his service in Congress, including the AACR Distinguished Public Service Award and the Mary Wood Lasker Award for Public Service. He graduated from Northwestern University and the University of Michigan Law School. Porter held nine honorary degrees for his extraordinary leadership in Congress on a wide range of issues that impacted public welfare.

“Congressman Porter’s remarkable achievements as an advocate for scientific discovery will forever be remembered and will always be greatly appreciated by future generations,” said Foti.