Why There is a Lack of Government Funding for Mesothelioma

Government funding for mesothelioma is lacking because of incidence rates and limited awareness. The number of people affected by mesothelioma is small compared to other cancers. An estimated 3,000 new cases develop each year.

The public’s lack of awareness about the illness plays a role. When there is less awareness of a particular disease, there is less pressure on Congress to fund it.

Mesothelioma researchers and patient advocacy groups work hard to secure more funding.

Doctors and scientists secure grants to fund new breakthroughs in treatment methods. Patient advocacy groups are lobbying for more funding for research and clinical trials. Thanks to these efforts, mesothelioma is receiving more federal funding than ever before.

Federal Funding for Mesothelioma Compared to Other Cancers

NCI’s total 2019 budget is $5.75 billion. This figure represents a $79 million increase from the institute’s 2018 budget.

The incidences and death rates of the most common types of cancer affect funding.

In 2017, breast cancer research received $545 million, which is more federal funding than any other cancer. That cancer takes in three times the funding of lung cancer research even though its death rate is one-fourth the amount. This is because of greater public awareness of breast cancer and more intensive lobbying.

In comparison, federal funding for mesothelioma research was only $6 million or 0.1 percent of the institute’s annual budget from 2004-2007.

Funding for mesothelioma appears to be increasing. For example, the Abramson Cancer Center received a $10.7 million grant in 2019 to study CAR-T cell therapy as a treatment for mesothelioma.

Federal funding and death rates for cancers graph
Federal Funding and Death Rates Per Cancer Between 2004-2007

National Cancer Institute

Created in 1937, the National Cancer Institute researches cancer for the federal government. It provides grants for mesothelioma research.

It is one of 27 institutes and centers that form the National Institutes of Health. The federal Department of Health and Human Services oversees it.

The institute receives its funding from Congress. The National Cancer Act of 1971 created the department. It investigates the causes, prevention, detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

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Department of Defense Mesothelioma Research Funding

In 2006, mesothelioma activists appealed to the Senate’s Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. It recommends funding for the Department of Defense.

The activists convinced the subcommittee that the department should fund mesothelioma research. They persuaded the department by explaining that U.S. Navy personnel file a third of all mesothelioma lawsuits.

Activists stressed the importance of research for service members, veterans and their dependents.

In 2008, the Peer Reviewed Cancer Research Program opened. It was the first of its kind to fund mesothelioma research. Dr. Courtney Broaddus received the first grant. It was for her work on macrophage-induced inflammation in mesothelioma. Broaddus received $1.36 million to conduct her research.

Four more grants went to research in 2009. Two of the grants went to top mesothelioma specialists: Thoracic surgeon Dr. Harvey Pass and thoracic oncologist Dr. Lee Krug.

An extra $3 million went out in 2010. Increased funding for mesothelioma research has continued. All thanks to activists convinced the department to join the cause.

FDA-Sanctioned Clinical Trials

The federal government influences mesothelioma research through the sanction of clinical trials. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration oversees them. 

Clinical trials are studies of new drugs and treatments.

The administration does not fund or conduct clinical trials. Its role is to promote and enforce strict protocols to ensure that people who agree to be in studies are treated as safely as possible.

Mesothelioma clinical trials investigate new drugs and anti-cancer therapies. These trials bring researchers closer to affecting a cure for mesothelioma.

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In March 2017, mesothelioma experts and research activists met for a planning meeting. They agreed upon at least two or three trials to conduct.

The National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank

The National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank is a virtual biospecimen registry. It supports and facilitates basic scientific and clinical research. Their goal is to speed the discovery of preventive measures and find new treatments for mesothelioma.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health funds it. NIOSH is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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