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  • What a Mitt Romney Presidency Means for Cancer Research

    Mitt Romney Cancer Research

    As we edge closer to November and the 2012 Presidential Election, there has been plenty of discussion about the differences between Mitt Romney and President Obama. A key factor for many people is the stance that these two men take on stem cell research as it pertains to future cancer treatments.

    As a candidate for the Presidency in 2008, Barrack Obama made a pledge to double the funding for cancer research over the next five years. However, during the time that he has been in office, the national funding for cancer research has increased only slightly from its 2008 level.

    So the question we want to ask is, “How might things change under the Romney Presidency?” In order to get a fix on the outlook for ongoing oncology studies under a different president, we will have to look at Romney’s stance on a number of key issues, including his viewpoints on stem cell research and prior history on cancer research funding.

    Romney’s Changing Views on Stem Cell Research

    During Mitt’s campaign run for Governor in 2002, he was quite open about his support for ongoing stem cell research. When asked about it, Romney made a promise that he would lobby for further support of stem cell research and even petition the former President George W. Bush to embrace it.

    During the 2008 presidential campaign potential voters saw a change of heart in the Republican candidate. Romney publicly renounced his prior position on stem cell research and claimed that he now backed Bush’s move to ban all federal funding for future research on embryos and stem cells.

    At the time, Romney said that this drastic shift in position came after he had a discussion with Harvard stem cell researcher, Douglas Melton, in 2004. The Harvard Stem Cell Institute had been planning a new ambitious research project which would involve therapeutic cloning.

    Their discussion had inevitably turned to the morality issue involving the use of embryos that had been extinguished at the 14 day mark. According to Romney, he left that discussion feeling that the sanctity of life had been cheapened by the decision upheld in Roe vs. Wade.

    Romney’s Position on Stem Cell Research in 2012

    Mitt Romney has upheld that he is indeed a strong supporter of stem cell research in his 2012 campaign for the U.S. Presidency. On the other hand, he has been openly opposed to the practice of cloning human embryos so that they could be used as a source of new stem cells. These cloned embryos are created in the lab by implanting human DNA into eggs which have been donated for scientific purposes. Romney also says that he is against using any federal funds for future embryonic stem cell research.

    In a 2007 interview on MSNBC, Chris Mathews questioned Romney about his stance on stem cell research and farming embryos. This is what the Republican candidate had to say:

    “Altered nuclear transfer creates embryo like cells that can be used for stem cell research. In my view that’s the most promising source. I have a deep concern about curing disease. I have a wife that has a serious disease that could be affected by stem cell research, but I will not, I will not create new embryos through cloning or through embryo farming because that would be creating life for the purpose of destroying it.”

    Chris Matthews: And you won’t take any from these fertility clinics to use either?

    “I’m happy to allow that, I shouldn’t say happy, it’s fine for that to be allowed, to be legal. I won’t use our government funds for that. Instead I want our government funds to be used on Doctor Hurlbut’s method which is altered nuclear transfer.”

    There is also video from the 2007 interview:

    Romney on Cancer Research

    It has been widely noted that Mitt Romney’s wife was herself a breast cancer survivor, so many have been interested in seeing where the former governor stands on cancer research. If he is elected president, will he continue to increase funding for further cancer immunology programs, or will he go in another direction? In another 2007 interview, Romney seemed adamant about increasing funding for breast cancer studies, as well as improving spending efficiency for new cancer clinical trials.

    This is a short excerpt from that interview:

    Still some people remain a little skeptical of Romney’s true position on funding further cancer research. In a recent press release from American Bridge, they cited a few instances in Romney’s political past which may raise a few eyebrows. Romney has come under fire from women’s health advocates for his opposition to additional funding for Komen for the Cure preventative care programs.

    While he was a senator, Romney also vetoed $2,748,551 for breast and cervical cancer benefits. His veto eventually was unanimously overridden by the Legislature.

    Romney has plenty of reasons to be supportive of further cancer research and benefit programs. He has publicly stated that as President of the United States, he would continue to build additional funding for these programs. However, some of the actions in his past do cast a precarious light on the sincerity of these promises.

    What do you think a Romney Presidency could do for cancer research?