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  • What an Obama Presidency Has Meant for Cancer Research

    While campaigning for the Presidency in 2008, President Obama and his running mate Joe Biden had been pretty vocal about the continued need for federal funding of cancer research.

    During the 2008 campaign, they even published their plan to effectively combat cancer while in office by doubling the federal funding for cancer clinical trials and research studies within the next 5 years.

    Obama would primarily focus on working with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Cancer Institute, and Congress in order to increase the national funding for cancer related research grants as well as to provide more funding for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

    In general this plan would have provided additional federal funding for:

    • Research on rare forms of cancer and others which currently do not have any effective treatment options available.
    • Scientists would have more freedom to continue their studies of health disparities and evaluate any possible interventions.
    • Improved efforts to understand the genetic factors which have a greater impact on the onset of cancer and their final outcomes.

    (see also: What a Mtt Romney Presidency Means for Cancer research)

    Federal Funding for Cancer Research 2012

    Since President Obama has been in office, he has been able to allocate more funding for the National Cancer Institute (NCI), but unfortunately he has fallen short of his proposed goal set in 2008.

    Just before President Obama was sworn into office, the budget for the National Cancer Institute was hovering right around $4.8 billion a year. According to the most recent budget reports, the President has increased the annual budget for the NCI to $5.196 billion.

    Now, the economy has still been facing some issues and this promise did come before Obama had even won the Presidential election. So on a positive note, Obama’s stimulus has been able to provide some additional funding for ongoing cancer clinical trials.  However, according to the National Cancer Institute, their budget has remained relatively flat over the last several years.

    This situation is addressed by Dr. Harold Varmus (a Nobel Prize winning scientist and current Director of the National Cancer Institute) in this recent press conference:

    Obama’s Position on Stem Cell Research

    In March of 2009, President Obama signed the executive order which reversed President Bush’s federal funding ban on stem cell research which had been in place since 2001. During President Bush’s time in office, scientists had been limited to conducting research on only 21 stem cell lines (the current stem cell registry has 135 eligible lines).

    However, Obama’s executive order did not address the ban on funding the development of new lines of stem cells. Stem cell research has been seen as one of the most promising avenues for developing new forms of cancer treatment.

    Obama’s decision received plenty of support, even from some unexpected parties. In fact, the former First Lady, Nancy Reagan, had this to say about Obama’s actions:

    “I’m very grateful that President Obama has lifted the restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. These new rules will now make it possible for scientists to move forward. I urge researchers to make use of the opportunities that are available to them, and to do all they can to fulfill the promise that stem cell research offers. Countless people, suffering from many different diseases, stand to benefit from the answers stem cell research can provide. We owe it to ourselves and to our children to do everything in our power to find cures for these diseases – and soon. As I’ve said before, time is short, and life is precious.”

    Obama Proclaims September 2012: “National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month”

    President Obama has certainly continued to be vocally committed to combating cancer. This year he proclaimed that September would be National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and he urged Americans everywhere to join him in the fight against childhood cancers.

    Due to advancements in cancer treatments over the past few decades, the five year survival rate for childhood cancer has climbed from under 50% to around 80%!

    The President also stated that his administration would continue its support of all the families that have been affected by pediatric cancer, and that they would strive to make their lives as good as possible.

    He went on to cite the changes that have taken place under the Affordable Care Act, and how children can no longer be denied health coverage by insurance companies due to prior conditions, which include cancer. They also cannot drop children from their coverage if they are diagnosed with cancer.

    Other Presidential Proclamations

    In 2012, President Obama also made several other proclamations which will surely help to increase the awareness for several deadly forms of cancer. In addition to September being National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, the President has made it National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month as well.

    Earlier in the year, Obama proclaimed that April would be viewed as National Cancer Control Month, in order to increase awareness of the various actions that Americans can take to prevent and control cancer.

    Oh and let’s not forget that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The activities held during these months really do make a difference in a lot of people’s lives and they help to raise additional funding for cancer related programs.

    To be sure, President Obama has been making a number of new changes since he has been in office. As the number of people who are diagnosed with cancer increases, events like National Cancer Control Month become more and more important, and they certainly need to be upheld by those who lead this country.

    With the national funding for cancer research still relatively close to where it was 4 years ago, have the actions of the current President made a real difference yet?