Thanks to thousands in the ECAN family, for the first time in history, Esophageal Cancer has been included in a multi-million dollar cancer research fund controlled by Congress. ECAN supporters throughout the nation sent letters, made phone calls and signed petitions this year to show how much increased research funding matters to them.
The result is something we were told ECAN would not be able to do. In ECAN’s first year of attempting to get Esophageal Cancer included in the Peer-Reviewed Cancer Research Program (PRCRP) of the Department of Defense, we gained the support we needed in both chambers of Congress!
In September, the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee voted to include Esophageal Cancer in this multi-million dollar program. Earlier this year, the House of Representatives Defense Appropriation Committee voted to include Esophageal Cancer for the first time in history. That House Committee voted to increase funding for the program to $100 million to be used for research into 13 cancers, including Esophageal Cancer. The Senate bill keeps the funding for the PRCRP flat at $90 million and funds research into 16 types of cancer, including Esophageal. The Senate bill also adds a new, special fund for Rare Cancers and provides funding of $7.5 million for the new program next year. Because Esophageal Cancer is considered a rare cancer, if that funding becomes law, our researchers could also apply for those funding from that program
Why this matters: The United States Congress appropriated $90 million dollars this year for this cancer research fund administered by the Department of Defense. The only researchers allowed to apply for those funds must be working on 16 specific cancer designations. Today, Esophageal Cancer is not on that list. But ECAN and thousands of our supporters from throughout the nation have been working all year to change that.
If both chambers of Congress agree to keep Esophageal Cancer on the list, millions of dollars in funding could become available to researchers in Esophageal Cancer who today struggle to find a source to finance the important work they need to do.
Research funding makes a difference. In 2016, the National Cancer Institute spent $1,669 on medical research into Esophageal Cancer for each death due to this devastating disease. It amounted to just one-half of a percent of the total federal cancer research budget. But Esophageal Cancer is responsible for 2.6% of all of the cancer deaths in this country.
Compare that to the $12,802 spent that year on breast cancer research for every death caused by that terrible disease. Breast cancer funding accounted for 9.9% of the Federal cancer research budget then. Breast cancer causes 6.8% of all U.S. cancer deaths, even though many more are diagnosed with the disease.
A breast cancer diagnosis used to be viewed as a death sentence – today its survival rate is 89.7%. The survival rate for Esophageal Cancer is under 19%. This shows what a difference research funding can make!
We desperately need funding for more research into Esophageal Cancer – adding this underfunded disease to this Cancer Research Fund is our best hope to do that!