How Does the PRCRP of the Department of Defense Work?
Congress created the PRCRP in 2009 to support innovative and competitive cancer research to benefit our military and civilian populations. Under the law, each year, Congress must specify the cancers that will be eligible for research funding through this multi-million dollar program.
There is no guarantee that any cancer will continue to be eligible, even if it has been on the list for a decade! Last year, previously included cancers were not on placed on the final list. We want to be sure that does not happen to Esophageal Cancer.
Esophageal Cancer can only be eligible for funding under this program if individual members of Congress say that it should be included.
In the House, Representatives do that by signing on to the letter spearheaded by our champions U.S. Representatives Peter DeFazio (D-OR 4th) and Barry Loudermilk (R-GA 11th) who have authored the letter in support of the inclusion of Esophageal Cancer for the third year in a row. If Reps. DeFazio or Loudermilk represent your Congressional District, please send them a message of thanks by clicking here. In the Senate, senators send individual letters to the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Defense.
What criteria allowed Esophageal Cancer to be included in the PRCRP?
The PRCRP was established to support research into specifically designated cancers with relevance to military service members and their families. Esophageal cancer clearly meets those criteria:
- Esophageal Cancer is the seventh leading cause of cancer-related death among American men, regardless of whether they are in civilian or military populations.
- Those at greatest risk for Esophageal Cancer are men over the age of 55 who have a history of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), tobacco and/or alcohol use, and/or obesity – all risks that are higher in the country’s veteran population compared to the general population.
- However, new research shows that Esophageal Adenocarcinoma, the most prevalent form of Esophageal Cancer in the United States, has increased dramatically among younger populations and that they are often diagnosed at later stages where treatments are generally less effective.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs has already stated that Esophageal Cancer is presumed to be connected to military service for those who were exposed to some types of radiation and those who lived or served at the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina from the 1950s to the 1980s.
- Further, some Esophageal Cancer is related to a history of smoking, a practice actively supported by the military well after the adverse health effects of tobacco use were known.
How is the Department of Defense Peer-Reviewed Cancer Research Program different than research funded through the National Cancer Institute (NCI)?
The DoD’s PRCRP complements research funding provided through the NCI, but the funding awarded through the two programs is inherently different. The NCI focuses on funding the best science regardless of the disease focus. The PRCRP focuses on funding the most compelling research for each specific disease.
How can we ensure that Esophageal Cancer is included in the PRCRP again in 2022?
Each year, the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Defense write a report that lists which cancers will be eligible for research funding under the program. First, we must clearly explain the connection between Esophageal Cancer and military service. Click here to read our fact sheet explaining the connection.
The other key factor that affects the Subcommittee’s decisions is how many members of Congress have asked that a specific cancer be included on the list.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressmen DeFazio and Loudermilk have authored a letter to the House DoD Appropriations Subcommittee and asked other members of Congress to co-sign with them. Because of the advocacy of members of the ECAN community, last year, twice as many members of the House of Representatives signed onto the DeFazio/Loudermilk letter than signed on in 2019 – 40 in all.
The following current members of Congress signed on in support of the inclusion of Esophageal Cancer in the PRCRP for FY 2021: