Congressional Funding to DoD for Cancer Research Approved Despite Resistance from Sen. John McCain

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WASHINGTON—Cancer organizations were pleased that funding was not reduced for the peer-reviewed prostate, breast and ovarian cancer programs in DoD’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) in the FY 2011 Defense budget.

“It is great that especially in this really tough year that Congress recognized the value of these programs,” said Cara Tenenbaum of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.

Concern was raised among cancer advocates when Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, stated that non-defense related spending should be moved out of the DoD budget, including funding for CDMRP’s prostate, breast, ovarian and lung cancer programs, among other programs. He had suggested that funding could come out of the Health and Human Services appropriations, rather than defense spending.

The final defense bill passed, however, included $20 million for ovarian cancer, $80 million for prostate cancer and $150 million for breast cancer research. Lung cancer research received a slight decrease from FY 2010 levels from $15 million to $12.8 million.

CDMRP got its start after breast cancer activists in the early 1990s campaigned for an increase in breast cancer research funding. Congress gave an initial congressional appropriation of $25 million in 1992 to be managed by DoD’s US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command. Then, the following year, Congress appropriated $210 million to the DoD for extramural, peer-reviewed breast cancer research.

These appropriations marked the beginning of CDMRP, which now funds research proposals by investigators for a variety of diseases.

The funding mechanism for this program is unique within DoD. While for most initiatives, DoD submits a budget request to Congress via the president’s yearly budget, funding for CDMRP is not included in the budget request and is instead funded by Congress during the yearly budget cycle.

Advocates for the program say that the program’s structure has benefitted research.

“This program is incredibly streamlined. The flexibility of the program has allowed the Army to administer it with unparalleled efficiency and effectiveness. Because there is little bureaucracy, the program is able to respond quickly to what is currently happening in the research community,” Joy Simha told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense in written testimony at a hearing last year. Simha is on the board of directors of the National Breast Cancer Coalition and a member of the Integration Panel of the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program.

Tenenbaum, who said that ovarian cancer research received slightly more funding through CDMRP than in FY 2010, said that the funding for ovarian cancer research is critical, especially given the need to develop an early detection test.

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