AACR Partners With Stakeholders to Host Rally for Medical Research

More than 200 partnering organizations participate in historic event  

 

2013 Rally Crowd

In an unprecedented effort to highlight the importance of medical research, the AACR and more than 200 national organizations and institutions partnered to conduct a Rally for Medical Research on April 8 in Washington, D.C., on the steps of the Carnegie Library. The rally served as a unified call to action to raise awareness about the critical need for an increased investment in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to improve health, spur more progress, inspire more hope and save more lives. Occurring at the time of the AACR Annual Meeting 2013 in Washington, thousands of supporters, researchers, advocates, survivors, clinicians, business leaders and members of the general public attended the rally. And for the first time in its history, the Annual Meeting was suspended until the conclusion of the rally so that all attendees could participate in this event.

The Rally for Medical Research provided a platform for the medical research community to call on Congress and the administration to work together on a budget solution that prioritizes the nation’s investment in medical research and the health of the American people. This was the first time that such a broad group of members from the research advocacy community joined together in such a public way to express support for the NIH. The event also united millions of Americans across the country to participate in the “Day of Action” and call on our nation’s policymakers to make lifesaving medical research funding a national priority.

DeLauro at Rally 2013

President Barack Obama expressed his support for the rally in a brief statement that was read by AACR CEO Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D. (h.c.).  The President specifically pointed out that to “meet the challenges of the 21st century, we must commit to a serious, sustained effort to advance medical research.”

Cokie Roberts, political analyst for ABC News and senior news analyst for NPR served as the moderator for the event. Guest speakers included Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Ranking Member on the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee; Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ranking Member on the House Budget Committee; the Honorable John Edward Porter, chair of Research!America’s Board of Directors, and former Member of Congress from Illinois; Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Ph.D., president, The Rockefeller University; Maura Tierney, actress and Stand Up To Cancer ambassador; and several survivors and other advocates. The event also featured messages from Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL).

CongressVan Hollen Rally 2013man Van Hollen noted how the low success rates for those applying for NIH grants reduces the likelihood that important discoveries will be made. “Now we’re here today because we know, that every time [NIH Director] Dr. [Francis] Collins and his team at NIH get a promising new research proposal from one of you or another scientist around the country, that has great promise and great potential, every time they have to say no to one of those promising proposals, we all lose,” Van Hollen stated. “We lose a little bit of hope, because that proposal may well have led to a new discovery—a new discovery that can help improve health and save lives.”  Van Hollen also stated, “Funding medical research is a no-brainer when it comes to our national interests – let’s make sure we have more progress, more hope and more lives.”

Rep. Rosa DeLauro remarked, “We need to make it clear to my colleagues [in Congress] exactly what these cuts mean for the health of America’s families. When they see a grass roots movement rising up, from doctors, from scientists, from advocates and patients, you are impossible to ignore … You need to overwhelm the institution with your voices.”

Former Congressman John Porter addressed the rally attendees with a call to action. “It’s time to get mad and really start fighting. Medical research is hurting—your future and the future of your institution is at stake.” Porter further noted, “We cannot rest until the sequester is replaced—until the pressure of the sequester is removed from medical research.” The former Republican representative was a powerful voice for medical research when he served as chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee that funds NIH, and he continues to be a staunch champion for the lifesaving research that is supported by the agency.

Dressed in white Rally for Medical Research T-shirts, rally participants chanted “more progress, more hope, more life.” The attendees also raised their cell phones with actress Maura Tierney to send a mass text message asking Congress to reverse the cuts to NIH.

The Rally for Medical Research received significant attention in the trade press and tweets with the rally’s tag #RallyMedRes were second in events tweeted about for the day. View the webcast or visit the Rally for Medical Research website to learn more about this historic event and to continue the rally efforts by expressing your support for increased funding for medical research.

Why Medical Research is at Risk

Since the completion of the unprecedented doubling by Congress of the NIH budget in 2003, appropriations for the NIH have remained essentially flat. When one factors in the rate of biomedical inflation, the agency has effectively lost approximately $6 billion, or 20 percent, in purchasing power and, therefore, its ability to fund lifesaving research. And as a result of Congress and the White House’s inability to reach agreement on a balanced alternative to deficit reduction, President Barack Obama recently signed an order authorizing the government to begin cutting $85 billion from federal agencies, officially enacting across-the-board reductions known as sequestration. Sequestration, originally slated to go into effect Jan. 2, was delayed two months with the hope that the new Congress might reach a more balanced and comprehensive budget agreement.  With the enactment of these deep cuts last month, the NIH budget has been slashed by 5.1 percent or approximately $1.5 billion, and is currently funded at $29.1 billion.

NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., stated recently that the agency will try to “prioritize things that seem most promising, most critical to public health, but there’s no question there will be across-the-board damage to virtually everything.” Further, these cuts come at a time when scientific opportunity has never been greater, and administering a reduction of this scale in such a short time frame will be devastating to the biomedical science enterprise. As stated by several speakers at the rally, sequestration will require arbitrary funding cuts that will prevent critical research projects from reaching completion and will ensure that other potentially lifesaving research will not even get off the ground.

Additional Media Stories about the Rally for Medical Research

“Hardball with Chris Matthews” on MSNBC is airing a new series called Unkindest Cuts focusing on how the sequester is hurting Americans. The Rally for Medical Research helped influenced the producers to schedule their third installment of the series on how the most recent cuts to the NIH are affecting medical research. The show, which aired Friday, May 3, included some footage from the Rally.

The Cancer Letter, which is a subscription-based newsletter, decided to make its issue on the Rally for Medical Research free of charge. Included in the issue is a five-minute video of highlights from the event.

 

Additional Articles on the Rally for Medical Research

USA Today Article on Rally for Medical Research
The Hill Article on Rally for Medical Research
Medical Research Cuts Have Immediate Health Effects – The Atlantic
US medical scientists rally against budget cuts – The Australian
Federal spending cuts could hurt America’s cancer research efforts – Pittsburgh Tribune
SITC Members Participate in Rally for Medical Research to Support Cancer Immunotherapy – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Thousands Rally To Protest Sequestration Cuts To Medical Research Programs – Think Progress
Statement by ASCO President Sandra M. Swain, MD, FACP, in Support of the Rally for Medical Research, April 8, 2013 – ASCO
Rally to Support Cancer Research Today – Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Fox DC Report – FOX
The Scientists March on Washington – Live from the “Rally for Medical Research” – Daily Kos
Pancreatic Cancer Researchers & Advocates To Join Rally For Medical Research – Reuters

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