Pancreatic cancer and the funding key to fighting it


The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s strategy is to build a critical mass of scientists working and excelling in the field of pancreatic cancer that will translate into better diagnostic tools and improved treatment options.  But this goal is dependent on federal and private pancreatic cancer research funding.
 
Last week, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network published a rigorous analysis of our research grants program that showed how the organization’s grant recipients are leveraging the funding from our grants to secure impressive subsequent funding, publishing their findings and enhancing knowledge about the disease.  The program was evaluated by looking at grants awarded by the organization from 2003-2011.  During that time, 66 grants were awarded totaling $9.15 million.  The evaluation found that the scientists funded during that time were able to leverage the organization’s $9.15 million investment into $91 million in subsequent pancreatic cancer research funding from other sources.
 

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Collectively, the researchers were able to secure a ten-fold return on investment on their original grant awards by focusing on three areas that are crucial to the continued success and further innovation of pancreatic cancer research – working hard to secure additional funding from federal sources, most notably the NCI, securing additional funding from private sources and publishing their work in peer-reviewed bio-medical journals. The 62 researchers who received grants from 2003-2011 authored an impressive 813 papers, many of which were published in high-tier journals.  Other investigators are using their work to advance their own research, exponentially enhancing our scientific knowledge about the disease, as evidenced by over 6,200 citations of the papers published by the grantees.
 
These results indicate that the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s research strategy is working. More scientists than ever before are studying pancreatic cancer building the foundation of knowledge necessary to improve patient outcomes. The field is finally at a tipping point, and now more than ever before, we have to continue to invest in the foundation that has been built. This investment must include both federal and private research dollars.

A further analysis of the $91 million leveraged by Pancreatic Cancer Action Network grant recipients shows that almost 58 percent of the subsequent funds came from federal sources, with 92 percent of that sum coming from the NCI.  This statistic indicates why the advocacy efforts of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and other cancer advocacy organizations are so important and why passage of the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act was vital.  This bill, which was signed into law by President Obama on January 2, 2013, will ensure that the NCI creates a scientific framework for pancreatic and other recalcitrant cancers to accelerate progress and improve patient outcomes.

But unfortunately, the potential for making significant progress toward improved outcomes for pancreatic cancer patients, made possible by the passage of this bill, is now in jeopardy due to the sequestration. These haphazard cuts to the federal budget have endangered the federal funding for cancer research through the NCI. 

In light of the current climate in Washington, it is important now – more than ever – to understand the critical balance that exists between federal and private research dollars.  Our grantees understand this balance, as demonstrated by their impressive ten-fold return on investment on the grants they received from the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. 

Grants from organizations like the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network play an important role in stimulating and influencing the research enterprise, but real progress requires sufficient and sustained federal funding.  It is our hope that our leaders in Washington can come to this same understanding and find a way to make sure that the NCI budget is protected from further cuts.

A renewed assurance of federal funding will lead to continued success for organizations like ours who are working every single day to raise awareness and private funding for cancer research.  The ability to maintain the balance between sufficient federal and private research funding will ensure new research innovations, and ultimately, a victory for patients and their families in the fight against pancreatic cancer.
 
Julie Fleshman is the president and CEO of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.