Durbin Calls For Increased Funding For Breakthrough Biomedical Research At The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Rally

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) called for increased funding for innovative, breakthrough research at federal agencies – funding that can lead to discoveries and treatments for cancer and other diseases – at a rally today hosted by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. Durbin discussed the American Cures Act, a bill that would increase funding at our nation’s top four biomedical research agencies. Today’s rally was held to advocate for increased funding for cancer research and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an initiative included in the American Cures Act.

Durbin’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are available below:

I want to thank Rob Youle for that generous introduction and for his outstanding leadership as Chairman of the Board of the American Cancer Society. 


I also want to thank Dr. Harold Varmus for a job well done as Director of the National Cancer Institute. 


I think I speak for everyone when I say, we’re going to miss you next month. 


And thanks to all of you for inviting me to help kick off the “One Degree Campaign.”


We all know someone who’s been affected by cancer.  And my family is no exception. 


When I was 14 years old, my father died of lung cancer.  He was a smoker and we lost him too soon. 


Sadly, my story is not unique. 


Every minute of every day, cancer kills another person. 


But we are making progress.


In the last two decades, we have seen cancer death rates fall 1 percent a year, every year in this country. 


We are saving lives, and that’s not all. 


Each 1 percent decline in cancer deaths saves our economy a half-trillion dollars a year in decreased health care costs and increased productivity. 


The Affordable Care Act is also a major victory for people with cancer and their families.


Just ask Fiona O’Connell. 


Before the Affordable Care Act, Fiona worked as property manager and got health insurance from her company.


But when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and proceeded to go through months of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy – she had to cut back her hours at work and eventually lost her job. 


Her cancer also meant that she had a pre-existing condition and no private insurance company would insure her after her COBRA benefits ran out.


Eventually she found coverage through Illinois’ former high-risk pool, known as ICHIP. It was expensive. She paid about $900 to $1200 a month.  But she was grateful to be covered. 


Today, because of the Affordable Care Act, Fiona has an excellent policy – that includes dental coverage – and only pays $332.95 a month. 


There is only one thing that makes cancer worse.  Not being able to afford the treatment you need.


Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Fiona and many others are no longer denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition.


But there is so much more we can do.


Dr. Francis Collins – at NIH – told me, if you give us regular funding increases of 5 percent real growth a year for ten years, I will prove to you that that investment will come back tenfold in helping the improvement of health in the United States and reducing the cost of health care. 


I believe him. 


That’s why I’ve introduced the American Cures Act, which will increase funding at our nation’s top four biomedical research agencies – a 5 percent annual budget increase, over and above inflation.  These agencies are: the National Institutes of Health; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the Department of Defense health programs; and the VA’s Medical and Prosthetic Research Program, its biomedical research arm. 


American Cures will make funding for critical biomedical research projects less political and more predictable. 


If America is going to remain a world leader in biomedical research – the government needs to take the lead.  And it shouldn’t be a low-budget priority.  It should be the highest.


Thank you for all your work to make that a reality.  And thank you for coming to Washington to speak for those whose voices aren’t heard often enough in Congress.


We need you and your work matters.