THE RECALCITRANT CANCER RESEARCH ACT, FORMERLY KNOWN AS THE PANCREATIC CANCER RESEARCH & EDUCATION ACT, PASSES THE SENATE

The Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act, formerly known as the Pancreatic Cancer Research & Education Act, has passed in the Senate today as part of the Defense Authorization Act. Senate approval of the Defense Authorization Act is a very important milestone, but we still have some steps ahead of us. Since the House passed their version of the Defense Authorization Act in May, the House and Senate will meet next week to agree on a compromise bill which will then be sent to President Obama to sign into law. The Senate passage of the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act comes after the House unanimously passed the bill as stand-alone legislation on September 19.

The bill, which received wide bi-partisan support since its introduction on February 16, 2011, requires the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to create a long-term plan, referred to as a scientific framework, for pancreatic and other recalcitrant cancers that includes evaluating its current efforts in the disease and making recommendations on ways to accelerate progress and improve outcomes.

The Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act, formerly known as the Pancreatic Cancer Research & Education Act, will require the NCI to identify cancers like pancreatic cancer that have low survival rates. Under the bill, the NCI will convene working groups to develop scientific frameworks focused on specific recalcitrant cancers. The frameworks will identify promising scientific advances, assess the sufficiency of qualified researchers working in relevant specialties, outline a plan to coordinate research, and include recommendations to advance research, including appropriate benchmarks for measuring progress. The legislation is a measured and balanced approach that complements ongoing research efforts at the NCI. The bill gives the NCI significant discretion to follow the best science, while encouraging the Institute to rigorously evaluate how existing efforts are, and are not, supporting progress in the prevention, detection, diagnosis, and treatment of recalcitrant cancers.

The Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act provides an opportunity to change the future for pancreatic cancer by implementing a research plan that will lay the groundwork for the development of early detection methods and effective treatment options, which are currently lacking.

Updates regarding the status of the legislation will be sent out as it progresses through the process. Please click here to learn more about the modified bill.

Appropriations Update
The “lame duck” session has officially started on November 13, and it will be a very busy couple of weeks as Congress focuses on finalizing the FY13 federal budget in order to avoid sequestration – which would mean automatic across-the-board cuts, which would be devastating to research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

By law, the $110 billion sequestration cuts will be split between defense and domestic programs. Of the domestic programs, an estimated $39 billion in cuts will be applied to “discretionary” programs, which include the NIH. With the remaining $16 billion in cuts coming from programs like Medicare. By Congressional Budget Office estimates, most programs will face a 7.8% budget cut per year. A cut like of this nature to the NIH budget will amount to over $2.4 billion in this fiscal year alone. Specifically, cancer research funding will receive a 8.2% cut over the next ten years.

While focusing on avoiding sequestration, Congress failed to agree on the federal budget before the start of the new fiscal year on October 1. Instead, a continuing resolution (CR) was passed on September 22 to allow the day to day operations of the federal government through March 2, 2013.

The CR essentially allows federal programs to continuing operating until Congress returns and decides how much money to allot to a wide range of federal activities, including cancer research. The CR, in this instance, will permit a small, 0.612 percent increase, to all federal programs. But while even a small increase in spending may be unusual in these austere budget times, it is important to note that funding for the National Cancer Institute will not even keep pace with the research inflation index.

“Some changes to current law are needed to prevent catastrophic, irreversible or detrimental changes to government programs or to ensure good government and program oversight,” the House Appropriations Committee said in its summary of the legislation.

Overall, the CR will fund the government at an annual rate of $1.047 trillion, the amount lawmakers agreed to last year as part of a deal to raise the government’s debt limit. That would be an $8 billion increase over current levels, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

It is important to note, however, that the new Congress that is sworn in next January will be charged with finalizing funding levels for federal spending through the remainder of the fiscal year. It is at this time that Congress will decide cancer research funding levels.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network will be monitoring this issue very closely over the next several weeks.

Current Status of the
Pancreatic Cancer Research & Education Act:

in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 733)
Passed on September 19, 2012
http://www.pancan.org/section_about/news_press_center/2012_press_releases/09_19_12_pr.php

in the U.S. Senate (S. 362)
passed on December 4, 2012
http://www.pancan.org/section_get_involved/advocate/senate_bill_update.php

To join the PANCAN mailing list: http://www.pancan.org/join_mailing_list.php

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