WASHINGTON -- Federal cancer research czar Richard Klausner
decided to use a diagram in his presentation: A poster-sized
blown-up cancer cell filled with arrows and scientific shorthand
showing how cancer grows and grows and grows.
But Congressman Steny Hoyer didn't want to talk cell diagrams.
Hoyer, D-Md., said he just had been to the funeral of a breast
cancer victim. The woman's widower saw Hoyer and wondered aloud
why decades of federally funded research efforts had failed to
prevent his wife's death.
Now Hoyer was sitting on a dais looking down at Klausner, who
had come before Hoyer's appropriations subcommittee to explain
how he and other National Institutes of Health officials planned
to spend an unprecedented amount of federal funding on cancer
The NIH, the federal government's medical research agency, is
the primary beneficiary of the "21st Century Research Fund,"
President Clinton announced in this year's State of the Union
address. As such, the NIH is in line to get a boost of more than
$1 billion in federal funding this year, raising its total
budget to about $14.8 billion.
That's not to mention the more than $480 million in
construction work planned or already under way at the NIH's
305-acre campus in Bethesda, Md.
But with the money comes heavy responsibility.
Hoyer told his funeral story with more melancholy than anger,
and he said to Klausner with respect that "tens of millions of
people are obviously relying on you."
But he also alluded to the fact that 27 years and more than $30
billion in federal cancer research funding have come and gone
since President Nixon declared war on the disease.
While progress has been marked by strides in prevention and new
treatment, the disease still claims victims, most recently and
notably, Linda McCartney.
"It seems to me we have spent a lot of money," Hoyer said, "and
it [progress toward a cure] has been slow."
The NIH is described as the world's leading biomedical research
It is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
just like the federal Centers for Disease Control and
The NIH is an umbrella organization. It reigns over two dozen
distinct centers, divisions and institutes, including the
National Cancer Institute, the National Human Genome Research
Institute and the Office of AIDS Research.
These sub-organizations employ scientists, establish research
labs and have budgets and their own congressional appropriations
But the NIH also funds other institutions, including research
universities, academic medical centers and even start-up biotech
NIH funding supports 50,000 scientists at more than 1,700 U.S.
One example is Mayo Clinic Jacksonville, which is getting about
$1 million in NIH funding this year. It supports such work as
John Hardy's genetic studies of Alzheimer's disease.
The University of Florida is getting about $50 million in NIH
funding this year. About $35 million of that goes to the UF
College of Medicine. That's about 15 percent of the medical
NIH funding has been the financial pillar on which UF's
nationally recognized diabetes research work has been built.
"It is extremely important to us," said Kenneth Berns, the dean
of UF's medical school, who also is an NIH-funded researcher
active in UF's gene therapy program. …