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Cancer Policy Monitor: October 11, 2022

AACR Unveils 2022 Cancer Progress Report: Decoding Cancer Complexity. Integrating Science. Transforming Patient Outcomes

-Nicholas Warren, PhD

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) unveiled its 2022 Cancer Progress Report: Decoding Cancer Complexity. Integrating Science. Transforming Patient Outcomes on September 21 during a policy briefing at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. The report details how federal investments in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) form the foundation of cancer research that catalyzes public health improvements and innovative breakthroughs across the cancer care continuum. 

AACR CEO Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), opened the briefing with welcoming remarks and presented a video featuring highlights of the report. Rep. Nikema Williams (D-GA), who was featured in the report, provided remarks about her mother’s journey with cancer and the inequalities she experienced trying to access care. AACR President Lisa M. Coussens, PhD, FAACR, detailed many key findings of the report, including the record 18 million cancer survivors living in the United States. She was followed by John Carpten, PhD, FAACR, of the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine who spoke about the need to diversify clinical trials and the cancer care and research workforce to address cancer health disparities. Anna D. Barker, PhD, FAACR of the Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine and founder of the AACR Scientist↔Survivor Program discussed the importance of patient advocates in leading change to help research and health care better suit the needs of patients. Two survivors featured in the report, Johnny Borgstrom and Alexandra Vitale, shared their stories of participating in clinical trials and receiving new life-changing medications that have combated their cancers and improved their health. Finally, a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Coussens answered questions from the hybrid audience.

The Cancer Progress Report, now in its 12th edition, is the cornerstone of the AACR’s efforts to educate policymakers and the public about cancer. It highlights the remarkable progress that researchers are making to develop new anticancer therapies, and the importance of robust, sustained, and predictable annual funding increases for the NIH and National Cancer Institute (NCI), as well as the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report features several stories of cancer survivors who are alive today because of new cancer therapies. In addition to Rep. Nikema Williams (D-GA), the report also features Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), who shared how his brother, former Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick’s battle against cancer has fueled his work in Congress. Additionally, this year’s report shines a spotlight on the need to prioritize funding for NCI, as funding level increases have not kept up with the increases in NCI grant applications during the past two decades. This translates to lower overall grant success rates, leaving many innovative ideas unfunded and harming academic career prospects for young scientists.

For more details about the report, please see the official press release. The full report and videos highlighting the cancer survivors who shared their stories, can be found at

2022 Rally for Medical Research Hill Day Draws Hundreds of Advocates

-Matthew Gontarchick

Medical research advocates from across the country gathered in Washington, D.C. September 13-14 for the Tenth Annual Rally for Medical Research. The AACR, the founding organizer and a lead sponsor of the rally, joined over 350 partner organizations to advocate for robust, sustained funding increases for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Patient advocates, caregivers, researchers, and health professionals gathered for a reception on Capitol Hill on September 13 featuring remarks from White House Science Advisor Francis Collins, MD, PhD; Acting NIH Director Lawrence A. Tabak, DDS, PhD; and Moffitt Cancer Center President and CEO Patrick Hwu, MD. Key members of Congress including Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI), Congresswoman Kathy Castor (D-FL), and Congressman David Trone (D-MD) additionally provided remarks. The reception also included a tribute to the late Congressman John Edward Porter (R-IL), a tireless advocate for federal health programs and the NIH.

On September 14, over 250 advocates representing more than 30 states took part in 190 meetings with their members of Congress and staff. Participants thanked Congress for enacting seven straight years of robust funding increases for the NIH, while requesting that members support an increase of at least $4.1 billion in NIH funding for fiscal year (FY) 2023. Advocates also urged lawmakers and their staff to complete work on FY 2023 appropriations bills as quickly as possible to avoid the delays and disruptions caused by continuing resolutions.

Advocates and partner organizations also participated in a National Day of Action on September 14, amplifying the rally message via social media and email campaigns. The Rally for Medical Research initiative was launched in April 2013 to bring together the entire medical research community to ask Congress to make the NIH a national priority. Through the annual Hill Day, the Rally for Medical Research continues to raise awareness about the critical need for an increased investment in the NIH to improve health, spur progress, inspire hope, and save more lives. See the list of the Rally partner organizations.

FY 2023 Appropriations Update

-Marc B. Johnson, MPP

Prior to the September 30 deadline, Congress enacted a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to maintain FY 2022 funding through December 16. This will provide time for congressional leaders to negotiate spending levels and appropriations bills for FY 2023.  As a result, the NIH and NCI will continue to operate under FY 2022 funding levels.

This summer, the House Appropriations Committee voted to provide $47.5 billion in base funding for NIH and $7.4 billion for NCI, both substantial increases from FY 2022 enacted levels. In addition, the Senate Appropriations Committee released a funding bill that would provide $47 billion in base funding for NIH and $7.2 billion for NCI. The AACR will continue to engage with Congress during FY 2023 negotiations to ensure these vital agencies receive robust funding increases and fuel investments in biomedical research.

AACR Participates in the White House Cancer Moonshot: Childhood Cancer Forum

White House references the AACR Cancer Progress Report 2022 during the Forum.

On Friday, September 23, the AACR participated in the White House Cancer Moonshot: Childhood Cancer Forum. Building off the momentum from 60th anniversary of President Kennedy’s Moonshot speech where President Biden spoke from the JFK Library in Boston to discuss his vision for another American moonshot: ending cancer as we know it, and in honor of September being Childhood Cancer Awareness month, the White House Cancer Moonshot team hosted this Childhood Cancer Forum to discuss key areas of progress to improve outcomes for kids and families facing cancer as part of President Biden’s vision for the Cancer Moonshot. 

During her opening remarks, White House Cancer Moonshot Coordinator Danielle Carnival, PhD, referenced the AACR Cancer Progress Report 2022, which had just been unveiled two days before this event at the White House. Here’s a link to the complete video from the forum Dr. Carnival’s specific reference to the AACR Cancer Progress Report 2022 can be seen at the 13 minute mark of the video/Forum. The AACR issued the following social media message at the conclusion of the Childhood Cancer Forum:

We thank White House #CancerMoonshot Coordinator @D_Carnival for noting the research-driven advances highlighted in the AACR #CancerProgressReport during Friday’s Childhood Cancer Forum. We proudly support @POTUS Biden’s effort to end cancer as we know it.

Register Now: The Virtual AACR Patient Advocate Forum on The Very Early Detection of Cancer Signals

Registration is free for this virtual forum that will highlight the latest research in cancer’s very early detection, as well as discuss the benefits and potential negatives of these new cancer screening tests. Learn more and register.

Scientists And Advocates Identify Action Items to Address at the 15th AACR Conference on The Science of Cancer Health Disparities

-Calais Prince, PhD

The AACR has prioritized ways to identify and close persistent racial gaps across the cancer continuum of care. One such effort is the annual AACR Conference on The Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved. Convened in September, this conference continues to be instrumental in advancing the understanding of adverse, preventable outcomes in cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. The conference opening session featured keynote remarks from three speakers and embodied the need for collaboration to end cancer disparities. Douglas R. Lowy, MD, the acting director of the National Cancer Institute and chief of the Laboratory of Cellular Oncology in the Center for Cancer Research, highlighted the importance of collaborative efforts to address cancer disparities. His remarks focused on NCI policies that will drive health equity and inclusion across the research enterprise, including support of the reignited Cancer Moonshot. Wenora Johnson, MPA, was the patient advocate keynote speaker and shared the importance of listening to the concerns of patients with cancer and partnering with cancer survivors earlier in the cancer research timeline. Loic Le Marchand, MD, PhD, associate director for community outreach and engagement at the University of Hawai’i Cancer Center, discussed the complex underlying social and ancestral factors impacting cancer disparities and the importance of translating results into interventions.

The new goals of the reignited Cancer Moonshot and results from moonshot equity roundtables were further discussed by Catharine G. Young, PhD, assistant director of engagement and policy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Two key messages were identified: bring cancer care directly to communities in need and identify ways to support families as they navigate cancer treatment and the associated financial, emotional, and mental burdens. The Cancer Moonshot initiative will also support the Cancer Moonshot Scholars program at NCI, which seeks to increase the representation of early-stage Investigators from diverse cultural and academic backgrounds and approaches to end cancer disparities.

The conversation of identifying actionable ways to reduce cancer disparities and promote health equity continued during the AACR Office of Science Policy and Government Affairs organized session entitled “Closing Persistent Gaps in Cancer Care: Reducing Disparities and Democratizing Cancer Care – A Call to Action.” Chaired by John D. Carpten, PhD, FAACR, professor and chair of translational genomics at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, this session featured four panelists who described how their years of work contributed to addressing the needs of their communities and providing the support necessary to promote proportional representation in clinical trials. Following the presentations, the panelists described how to sustain collaborative efforts between academia and communities, finding ways to financially support community health workers and the populations they serve, and involving communities in research design and grant writing when the proposed research has a direct connection to the population it is proposed to study.

The recordings for the scientific sessions are available to conference registrants. On-demand registration for access to the recordings are available until November 28, 2022.

President Biden to Appoint Dr. Renee Wegrzyn to be the Director of ARPA-H

-Marc B. Johnson, MPP

On September 12, President Biden announced his intent to appoint Dr. Renee Wegrzyn  to be the inaugural director of the newly created ARPA-H. ARPA-H is designed after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which has successfully developed new technologies through the use of public-private partnerships. ARPA-H is intended to provide government support for high-risk, high-reward projects to fuel biomedical innovation, including for diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes, and is central to the president’s goals under the reignited Cancer Moonshot.  During a speech on the Cancer Moonshot at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, President Biden stated that Dr. Wegrzyn, a former DARPA program manager, will “bring the legendary DARPA attitude and culture and boldness and risk-taking to ARPA-H to fill a critical need.”

A biomedical scientist by trade, Dr. Wegrzyn is currently the vice president of business development at Ginkgo Bioworks, a biotech company specializing in genetic engineering. She is a former program manager in the Biological Technology Office at DARPA and has served on the scientific advisory boards for the National Academies of Science Board on Army Research and Development as well as the Innovative Genomics Institute and was a fellow in the Center for Health Security Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Initiative. Dr. Wegrzyn received her BS and PhD in applied biology from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Prabhakar Confirmed as Director of Office of Science and Technology Policy 

Following a favorable hearing by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation in July, the Senate has confirmed Dr. Arati Prabhakar as director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) on September 22 in a 56-40 vote. Visit our August Cancer Policy Monitor to read more about Dr. Prabhakar and the enthusiastic endorsement of her nomination from AACR President Lisa M. Coussens, PhD, FAACR.