Stop Playing Favorites with Cancer Research Funding

I have written several articles about the lack of research funding and the stigma associated with lung cancer. I hope the example I give in this article clearly illustrates my point.

The Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) is a government program that funds research for various diseases, including Parkinson’s, autism, and epilepsy. The program also funds several types of cancer research, including lung, breast, prostate, ovarian, and kidney.

The program has many merits. Cancer survivors have an opportunity to review the research proposals, offer their insights and vote for the research project they think will have the most impact. (Let me know if you are interested in doing this and I will get you connected. You can do it online or in person.)
Cancer funding disparities graph
The CDMRP began funding lung cancer research in 2009, thanks in large part to advocacy by the Lung Cancer Alliance. This year, the CDMRP’s Lung Cancer Research Program will award a total of $12 million for lung cancer research.1 (See more here.)

However, to put this in perspective, this year the CDMRP awarded $120 million for breast cancer research.2 It doesn’t take a mathematician to understand that this year breast cancer research receives 10 times as much funding as lung cancer research.

Fact: Lung cancer kills nearly twice as many women as breast cancer.

And yet, an estimated $3.28 billion (with a “b”) has funded breast cancer through this program.2 (See more here.) Since the program began, approximately $101.5 million has been appropriated for lung cancer research.1

I recently learned an easy way to comprehend the difference between a million and a billion. A million seconds is 12 days. A billion seconds is 31 years.

Another $90 million will fund prostate cancer research this year. More than $1.5 billion (with a “b”) has funded prostate cancer through this program.3 (See more here.)

Fact: Lung cancer kills nearly three times as many men as prostate cancer.

There is something wrong here. I am grateful millions of dollars are funding lung cancer research. However, I believe we can do a lot better. No one wants to reduce funding of any cancer research. But for the love of God, can we correct this travesty and fund lung cancer research fairly?

This is just one research program; however, it clearly illustrates the disparity in lung cancer research funding. There is a lot of media coverage and government support for the opioid crisis—and rightly so. Last year, the opioid crisis claimed approximately 59,000 American lives. Lung cancer claimed approximately 158,000.1

We can all agree there is more than one national health emergency. We are simply stating that it is time to include lung cancer as a national emergency. Lung cancer research funding deserves its fair share of the cancer research pie. Simply increasing the size of the overall pie magnifies the disparity even more. Lung cancer needs a significant increase in funding now.

For suggestions about how to take action, see “How to Support Lung Cancer Research,” “Lung Cancer Advocates Go to Washington,” or “Calling All Lung Cancer Advocates!”

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