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AACR Journals — Final FY 2024 Appropriations Trim NCI, NIH

AACR Journals — Final FY 2024 Appropriations Trim NCI, NIH

Abstract: Congress passed legislation on March 22 that cut funding for the NIH and NCI through the remainder of fiscal year 2024. Members of the cancer community want funding levels for these agencies to be restored during the next budget go-round. Fiscal year 2025 begins on October 1.

Advocates hope funding levels are restored in the next budget cycle.

After months of back and forth, Congress finally passed legislation on March 22 to fund the federal government through the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2024, which ends on September 30. Although funding for the NIH and NCI has been reduced, members of the cancer community hope levels will be restored during FY 2025.They are also calling for a smoother legislative process all around.

“The recent budget cycles have been challenging and unpredictable at times, which brings its own level of concerns for these large federal agencies in order to try and manage budgetary issues, especially when it is not clear when or if funding deadlines will be met,” says Jeff Allen, PhD, president and CEO of Friends of Cancer Research (Friends).

Ryan Hohman, Friends’ vice president for public affairs, says the nontraditional and frenetic cycle—in which spending bills are passed hours before potential government shutdowns—is causing confusion and not giving the advocacy community enough time to assess what is in the legislation. Congress appropriated $47.1 billion for all NIH programs, which is roughly $378 million less than in FY 2023. NCI’s allocation, $7.2 billion, does not fully close a critical gap—this is the agency’s first year without funding from the 21st Century Cures Initiative, which authorized $1.8 billion for the Cancer Moonshot for 7 years, starting in 2016. As such, not only will there be fewer successfully funded research grants, but the NCI will also have less money available to implement its National Cancer Plan, which aims to cut cancer mortality in half by 2047.

“You hear some people on Capitol Hill saying there is a $120 million increase for NCI, but when you do the math, it is actually a $96 million cut because they haven’t backfilled the Moonshot money,” Hohman explains. “With NIH, you have the same quirky math where it is being called an increase but there is really a $378 million decrease because they’re not backfilling the Cures money.” “We must keep our eye on the ball here, because there have been some amazing discoveries, and we’re achieving a much better understanding of different types of cancers and how to personalize treatment,” says Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD, director of the Medical University of South Carolina’s Hollings Cancer Center in Charleston. “Now is the time to accelerate funding, not cut it or even let it plateau.”

“Both Democrats and Republicans get cancer at about the same rate,” DuBois adds, so it is vital to make sure lawmakers are aware of the need for sustained NCI and NIH funding.

Meanwhile, as part of an appropriations bill passed earlier in the month, the FDA’s funding stayed stable at $6.7 billion. The March 22 package also maintained the Advanced Research Projects Agency on Health’s budget at $1.5 billion.

As lawmakers prepare FY 2025 appropriations bills, Roy Herbst, MD, PhD, deputy director of Yale Cancer Center in New Haven, CT, and chair of the American Association for Cancer Research Scientific Policy and Government Affairs Committee, says that advocacy over the next 6 months will be critical.

“We need to show how cancer research saves lives and also make the case that it boosts the economy by providing jobs and creating a robust scientific and medical workforce,” he says.