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Congress Delivers Brain Tumor Community Holiday Gift

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More funding for NIH to raise all ships, and specific funding for pediatric brain tumors, is welcome!


More money will be available for brain tumor research in 2016, thanks to a year-end budget deal in the United States Congress that was reached today.

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NBTS volunteer advocate, Brian, with NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins

The “omnibus” spending bill that sets government spending levels and priorities for Fiscal Year 2016, passed both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate this afternoon and is expected to soon be signed into law by President Obama.

And thanks to the advocacy of NBTS, our dedicated advocates, and others, the new budget for 2016 will deliver the biggest increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 12 years. NIH – the largest funder of brain tumor research in the world – will get a $2 billion increase, bringing their 2016 budget to $32 billion, a roughly 6.5% boost.

nci-vol-3645-300The NIH includes a number of individual institutes that fund brain tumor research, including the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The NCI, which gets its own line-item from Congress, will see their budget grow by $264 million in 2016, a 5.3% increase.

Among other federal health-related agencies, U.S. Food and Drug Administration saw its budget bumped up by $133 million to $2.7 billion (7.9% increase), which will help the FDA perform its function to evaluate and approve safe and effective treatments for patients with brain tumors and other diseases.

The NIH budget was essentially flat from 2014 to 2015 and hadn’t had a substantial increase for years before being hit by the sequester. This had resulted in the agency losing roughly 25% of its spending power since 2003 – taking inflation into account – and only being able to fund one out of every six grant applications from biomedical researchers.

According to a recent article: “Researchers funded through the NIH are rattled not only because, in their view, the agency is funding an insufficient number of grants, but also because the constant budget battles in Congress generate uncertainty. That makes it hard to plan multiyear research projects, and it discourages young scientists from pursuing publicly funded biomedical research…When the NIH struggles, biomedical scientists at universities all over the country don’t see even their best grants getting funded. When those grants aren’t funded, researchers pinch pennies in the lab, cut down on staff, or, in some cases, leave science altogether…Plus, funding constraints make scientists less bold…”

NBTS is excited that Congress has decided to restore its traditional, bipartisan commitment to funding biomedical research through these funds. We also thank all of our advocates, who consistently joined with other research advocacy groups from across the country to push their representatives to re-commit to healthy funding for the NIH.

“Your persistence over the past year has paid off, and we can look forward to increased research and progress in the coming years thanks to your efforts… What a great end to a year of successful advocacy in 2015! Thank you for the time and energy you dedicated this year to making this happen. Congratulations!” – Lainey Titus Samant, Director of Public Policy & Advocacy, NBTS

Further, and much to our excitement, this budget also includes pediatric brain tumors as an eligible topic for funding in the Department of Defense’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program’s (CDMRP) Peer Review Cancer Research Program.

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NBTS volunteer advocates on the steps of the Capitol Building during Head to the Hill 2015

This is an issue NBTS has championed for a number of years, and has provided an extra stream of much-needed funding for pediatric brain tumor research. For years, grants were made available through this program for researchers working on pediatric brain tumor projects to apply for, but, inexplicably, pediatric brain tumors were removed from the program’s list of eligible topics for funding last year. It was at that point, that we asked our advocates to ask Congress to add pediatric brain tumors back to the list of eligible topics, so researchers from our field could again have access to another potential funding source. And our collective efforts have paid off!

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NBTS advocates from Arizona meeting with Senator Jeff Flake during Head to the Hill 2015

The success of getting pediatric brain tumors eligible as a funding topic under the CDMRP illustrates the power of collective action. Without NBTS identifying this possible funding stream, originally; championing it for years; and then identifying when funding possibilities lapsed, this issue would have never come to light. And without the commitment, passion, and persistence of our volunteer advocates, Congress would have never moved so quickly to restore this source of critical research dollars for children with brain tumors. So while NIH funding was the result of our participation in (and adding our voices to) a large-scale advocacy effort encompassing many different constituencies in the biomedical research landscape, the CDMRP funding stream was solely a result of OUR (NBTS and YOU, our volunteer advocates) efforts. This demonstrates what the brain tumor community can do, when we raise our voices!

While there will be more work to do in the future on other priorities, and to maintain (and build on) the progress made this year, all-in-all today’s news is a great victory for the brain tumor community and our advocacy efforts. What a way to celebrate the end of the year and holiday season!

As our Director of Public Policy & Advocacy, Lainey Titus Samant, wrote in an email that went out earlier today: “Your persistence over the past year has paid off, and we can look forward to increased research and progress in the coming years thanks to your efforts… What a great end to a year of successful advocacy in 2015! Thank you for the time and energy you dedicated this year to making this happen. Congratulations!”

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