Full House to Vote on Colorectal Cancer Research Funding Next Week

This week the House Appropriations Committee approved $223 million for cancer research, including $12.8 million for the Department of Defense’s Peer Reviewed Cancer Research Program (PRCRP) that funds colorectal cancer research. Next week, the full House will consider the bill.

During consideration of the bill by the full House, there may be amendments offered to eliminate or reduce this important funding. Keep reading for more information on why the PRCRP funding is important and what you can do to help ensure the funding stays in the fiscal year 2012 defense appropriations bill.

The PRCRP is an opportunity to advance the best research to eradicate diseases and support the warfighter for the benefit of the American public. These research target diseases like colorectal cancer that directly impact the welfare of the American military, their families and the public. For example, a study published in the June 2009 edition of Cancer Epiemology Biomarkers & Prevention, researchers found that colorectal cancer was one of the most common forms of cancer among active-duty military personnel. Screening rates in the military for colorectal cancer, like in the general population, are much too low. In 2008, only about 58% of those in the military who should be screened for colorectal cancer had been screened.

The mission of the PRCRP is to foster ground-breaking research, team science, and partnerships for the development of better prevention, early detection, and more effective treatment of cancer. The funding supports high-quality medical research, concentrating its resources on research mechanisms which complement rather than duplicate the research approaches of the other major funders of medical research in the United States.

The PRCRP is very important. Dr Carlos Alvarez at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Dr C Couto at Ohio State University, and Dr Kun Huang at Ohio State University recently received a PRCRP funding grant for the following innovative research proposal:

“Despite great progress in genetics, little is known about the majority of genetic and environmental causes of complex diseases. One limitation is the great genetic complexity of the human population, in which many variations of many genes can be associated with disease. Another limitation is that it has not yet been possible to study groups of individuals over time, collecting standardized clinical, environmental, and molecular or genetic data. In humans, this has not been possible largely due to cost and ethics. Here we propose that dogs are the ideal mammal in which to identify genetic and environmental contributions to disease. Military Working Dogs (MWD) offer an unparalleled advantage in understanding the genetic mechanisms that contribute to the development of naturally occurring complex diseases. Genetic complexity in dog breeds is very dramatically reduced compared to humans, and each breed is predisposed to a different limited group of disorders. Nearly 400 inherited diseases, including diverse cancers, are well characterized in dogs. Almost all are similar to human disorders and, where known, involve the same biochemical pathways. Other major strengths of dog models is that they share an environment with humans, the also receive a high level of health care, but age five times as fast. Studies on pets share the limitations of bias that occur in the human population. MWD however have extensive clinical, behavioral, and environmental records. By using these records in combination with molecular and genetic characterizations we hope to identify environmental effects that alter heritable traits. Specifically we will integrate different kinds of information and conduct statistical analysis to identify exactly which gene variations and environmental effects are associated with increased cancer incidence or worse outcomes. We propose this would be the most powerful study of its kind to date. The successful completion of this work will yield information about genetic and environmental contributions to cancer. This information will not only be relevant to human cancers, but is likely to reveal completely novel understanding of geneenvironment interactions. The ultimate applicability of this work will be the identification of genetic pathways that are affected in cancer risk and disease progression. Importantly, the development of new treatments based on our findings will be vastly accelerated in clinical studies of pet dogs with cancer. For example, if drugs targeting the biochemical pathways implicated are already in human use or in development, those could be used in dogs without requirements for clinical studies that typically take six or more years in humans. Thus our proposal has the potential to quickly identify novel genetic and environmental contributions to cancer, and to result in the rapid development of new treatments.”

Research proposals submitted for funding through the PRCRP program go through a two-tier review process.  The first level is a scientific peer review conducted by an external panel recruited specifically for each peer review session.  The second-tier review is a programmatic review conducted by an “Integration Panel.”  Members of the Integration Panel include basic researchers, clinicians, consumers, and military members.  Research proposals that receive a recommendation from the Integration Panel are awarded funding in the form of 1-5 year grants, contracts, or cooperative agreements.

The Peer Reviewed Cancer Research Program is just one of several innovative research programs within the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP). We are very concerned that amendments may be offered during floor consideration of the fiscal year 2012 appropriations bill to reduce or eliminate this important research funding. We will be working hard to prevent this from happening, but we also need your help to ensure the funding stays in the bill….

Please take a minute to call your Representative and ask them to vote no on any amendments that would reduce or eliminate funding for the Peer Reviewed Cancer Research Program.

Dial 202-224-3121, and ask the operator to connect you to your Representative. When you are connected to the office, you can use the following talking points:

Introduce yourself: Give the staffer your name and address (they need to know you are in their district)

Tell them why you are an expert: Explain your personal connection to colorectal cancer (are you a survivor, family member of a patient, caregiver, physician, nurse, etc)

Explain what you want: “I urge you to vote NO on any amendments that would reduce funding for the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs. The $12.8 million in fiscal year 2012 defense appropriations bill (H.R. 2219) for the Peer Reviewed Cancer Research Program is life-saving research funding needed to continue a highly successful peer-reviewed, competitive grant program.”

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