BY ERIC T. ROSENTHAL
For the first time in the more than 100 of its annual scientific meetings, the American Association for Cancer Research will shut down this year’s conference temporarily to call on federal policymakers to make funding medical research a national priority.
The Rally for Medical Research will take place Monday April 8 from 11 am to 12:15 pm on the steps of the Carnegie Library in Washington DC, and the meeting will reconvene at 12:30 pm within the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
The library is conveniently located across the street from the convention center, and at the conclusion of NCI Director Harold E. Varmus’s talk at the end of that morning’s plenary session, meeting attendees will be encouraged to convene outside and join what the AACR expects to be thousands of patients, survivors, advocates, business leaders, and members of the general public representing several diseases in addition to cancer to raise awareness about the importance of sustaining investment in the National Institutes of Health.
NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, as well as several influential members of Congress have been invited to speak.
According to Jon Retzlaff, Managing Director of AACR’s Washington-based Office of Science Policy and Government Affairs, two critical dates will precede the April Rally, facilitated by AACR in cooperation with more than 50 other organizations:
- March 1, when the so-called sequestration is scheduled to take place, which would automatically trigger Congressional spending cuts that would in effect reduce NIH funding by about 5 percent this year, translating into a quarter fewer NIH grants issued during fiscal year 2013 compared with fiscal year 2012; and
- March 27, when Congress’s Continuing Resolution for 2013 will end, potentially resulting in additional budget cuts.
Retzlaff said during a phone interview this week that the timing of the Rally coincides not only with AACR’s meeting but also with the American Heart Association’s annual Capitol Hill Day, ensuring increased participation.
Among the nearly 60 (and counting) other organizations involved (full list, here) are the American Diabetes Association; amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research; the American Association of Cancer Institutes; the American Society of Clinical Oncology; the Association of American Medical Colleges; the Association of American Universities; the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network; the Oncology Nursing Society; Stand Up To Cancer; and numerous advocacy organizations and cancer and medical centers.
The day’s events will also have a national grassroots component, and efforts are currently under way to plan possible events at cancer centers. A news conference will take place immediately following the Rally.
And given the several potential budgetary funding scenarios, the tone of the Rally may very well vary according to the severity of the situation.