2008 Presidential Candidates on the Issues of Biomedical Research and Healthcare

A major determinant of America’s health and competitiveness in the world is progress in the life sciences. Over the past twenty years, the life sciences have had a tremendous impact on human health through the understanding of the molecular basis of disease and the development of new diagnostics, therapeutics and other medical products. Given the significance of biomedical research on healthcare, I felt it was important to highlight the 2008 presidential candidates’ positions. A number of online resources are discussed in this post and listed at the end of the article. With the election less than two weeks away, it is paramount that voters know where the presidential candidates’ stand on these essential issues.

NIH Increases Support for High-risk Large-impact Biomedical Research

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced last week that it has increased support for high-risk, large-impact research by awarding 16 investigators the Pioneer Award; 2.5 million for each investigator over five years to pursue research in a variety of areas, including embroyonic development, autism, prions (responsible for the formation of amyloid plaques that lead to neurodegeneration) and malaria [1].

The NIH Director’s Pioneer Award is a high-risk research initiative desiged to [2]:

… support individual scientists of exceptional creativity who propose pioneering — and possibly transforming approaches — to major challenges in biomedical and behavioral research.

First announced in 2004, 9 awards were presented in September 2004, 13 awards each were made in 2005 and 2006, and 12 awards were presented last year.

Cancer Research Blog Carnival #13 – Stand Up To Cancer

Welcome to the 13th edition of the Cancer Research Blog Carnival, the blog carnival devoted to cancer research.

There’s a revolution occurring on the Web: those “authoritative” articles written on traditional, static websites are being replaced with blogs, wikis and online social networks. In the sphere of health, medicine and information technology, this “real-time Web” consists of many who are professionals in the field; their posts are listed below.
In the digital age, these are the characteristics of new media: recent, relevant, reachable and reliable.

Everyone knows that cancer is a devastating disease. What many people don’t know is that cancer kills more than 1,500 people a day; that’s one person every minute. Tonight, Stand Up To Cancer, a one-hour fundraising event, will be simulcast on all three major U.S. networks. The goal of Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) is to enable cutting-edge research aimed at finding a cure to all types of cancer and making cancer part of the national debate.

Since 2001, federal deficits resulting from a number of fiscal pressures, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, increased national defense spending and hurricane Katrina, have together placed significant stress on the resources available for U.S. biomedical research. Between the fiscal years 2004 and 2007, the National Cancer Institute’s budget remained relatively flat. However, factoring in inflation (i.e. a Biomedical Research and Development Price Index (BRDPI) of ~3.8% per year) reveals a 12% loss of purchasing power [1].

This decrease in resources comes as patient demand is growing. There was an estimated 1.5 million new cancer cases in 2007, an increase of 14% since 2001 [2]. The U.S. spends roughly $12 billion dollars every month fighting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. That’s 33 times more than what is spent on cancer research annually. Imagine what we could do if just a fraction of those resources was dedicated to cancer research.

Join the Movement and Stand Up To Cancer

Stand Up To Cancer (http://www.StandUp2Cancer.org) is an initiative to raise philanthropic dollars for accelerating ground breaking research through an unprecedented collaboration uniting the major television networks, entertainment industry executives, celebrities and prominent leaders in cancer research and patent advocacy [1]. On Friday, September 5th, at 8:00 pm EST and PST, ABC, CBS and NBC will donate one hour of simultaneous commercial-free prime time for a national fundraising event.

Funding of Childhood Cancer, NF Research in Jeopardy

Neurofibromatosis (NF) is a set of genetic disorders that can cause tumors to develop and grow along various types of nerves. The tumors may also affect the development of non-nervous system tissues such as skin and bone.

There are three types of NF tumors that result from mutation or loss of different tumor suppressor genes:

  • Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is the most frequent inherited cause of brain and nerve tumors. One in every 3,000 children is born with NF1, making it also one of the most common inherited human diseases worldwide. Enlargement and deformation of bones may also occur. Approximately 50% of people with NF1 also have learning disabilities. NF1 is caused by a mutation or loss of the tumor suppressor gene NF1.
  • Neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) is much rarer, occurring in one in 25,000 births. NF2 is characterized by the development of multiple tumors on the cranial and spinal nerves. The hallmark of NF2 is the formation of tumors that affect auditory nerves. Hearing loss beginning in the teens or early twenties is typically the first symptom of NF2. NF2 is caused by a mutation or loss of the tumor suppressor gene NF2.
  • Schwannomatosis is even rarer than NF2, affecting one in 40,000 individuals. SImilar to NF1 and NF2, Schwannomatosis tumors can develop on cranial, spinal and/or peripheral nerves. Although patients with Schwannomatosis do not have learning disabilities, they experience chronic pain and occasionally numbness, tingling and weakness. The candidate Schwannomatosis tumor suppressor gene is named INI1.