Scientists: Cuts Hurt Cancer Research

Dr. Ben Ho Park
Dr. Ben Ho Park, couric interview, cancer

For eight months, Joni Grandin, who never smoked, has been receiving an experimental treatment for advanced lung cancer, thanks to a federally funded clinical trial at the University of North Carolina, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric reports.

"I think it was a lifesaver for me," Grandin says. "I would say there's probably a good chance I wouldn't be sitting here with you right now if it weren't for that."

But budget cuts are threatening the future of new clinical trials that might save more lives.

"We are pulling the rug out from the world's best infrastructure for cancer research and for all biomedical research. It doesn't make any sense to me," says Dr. Shelton Earp of UNC's Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Funding for the National Cancer Institute had been going up steadily for a decade, but now President Bush wants to cut the funding for the second year in a row — this time by $40 million.

The newest cancer research may be especially threatened by these cuts. Money has always been tight. Even back in 2002, when the budget was growing, the government approved only one in five promising proposals for new research. Now only one in 10 is funded.

It's not only the research, but the researchers themselves that are affected. Some worry these cuts will have chilling effect on recruiting up-and-coming scientists.

"We're at jeopardy of losing a whole generation of scientists, of cancer researchers, and that's undoubtedly going to have an effect 10 years down the line," adds Dr. Ben Ho Park of Johns Hopkins' Kimmel Cancer Center.

Park, 40, is doing promising breast cancer research, but he's seen his lab budget cut by almost 30 percent. He's worried that without funding, science won't move forward — and the number of cancer deaths could rise again.

"Right now it's a shame because we're really poised with our knowledge base of cancer to make really great inroads into this disease, as far as therapy and treatment," he says.

Inroads that Grandin feels are given her the best chance to battle her lung disease.

"I'm fighting this," Grandin says. "I'm not going to go down not fighting and, at this point, it's working for me."

Whether other patients will have the same opportunities for new therapies in the future is what doctors are worried about today.