The Disparity In Cancer Research Funding

Cancer patient
Twenty-eight-year-old Andrew Lesser has esophageal cancer, one of the fastest-growing but least funded types of cancer in the United States. Cancer is down overall but there is a vast disparity in research funding.

In 2006, 560,000 Americans died of cancer, down 2 percent from the previous year. Cancer is on the decline in this country - down 19 percent among men between 1990 and 2005 and 11 percent among women between 1991 and 2005.

But those declines are concentrated among the cancers that receive the most research funding, while some of the fastest growing cancers are getting little publicity or funding, as CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook reports.

Amy Schoener loves her life as a new mother. But a year ago she took on another role when her father, Edward, was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus.

"When a doctor looks in your face and says, 'Your father has a year to live, and the treatment options are small,' and I'm not a doctor, and I'm not someone who can go out and research a cure personally, what can I do?" Schoener said.

What she does is spend all her spare time raising awareness of her father's disease, one of the country's fastest-growing and least funded cancers.

"Until we get some attention and some dollars for research, we're going to be exactly where we are now - it's going to keep growing," Schoener said..

A CBS News analysis of data released Wednesday by the American Cancer Society reveals a large disparity in funding for different types of cancer.

For every cancer death, the most federal research dollars were spent on cancer of the cervix ($18,870) and breast ($14,095) and on Hodgkin lymphoma ($12,791). The least funded were cancers of the stomach ($1,168), lung ($1,553), and esophagus ($1,542).

One reason for the disparity - some advocacy groups, like those for breast cancer, are more adept at raising awareness. And with awareness comes cash.

"It's clear that some of the gender related cancers are very effective in raising funding for research," said Dr. Raymond DuBois, provost at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Twenty-eight-year-old Andrew Lesser is feeling the effects of this inequity. He's battling esophageal cancer, which gets just a tiny slice of the cancer research pie.

"Certain ones get more attention, get more funding. They know more about them. This - it's still kind of an unknown," Lesser said.

Officials at the National Cancer Institute say they're not getting enough grant proposals for research into cancers of the esophagus, stomach, and pancreas.

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    Dr. Jonathan LaPook is the chief medical correspondent for CBS News.