Durbin Delivers Remarks as He Receives the Cancer Research Ally Award

Durbin was presented the award by the Association of American Cancer Institutes and the American Association of Cancer Research

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today delivered remarks after receiving the Cancer Research Ally Award from the Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI) and the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) for his support of, and advocacy for, cancer research.  In his remarks, Durbin shared his own family’s history with cancer, speaking about how his father passed at age 53 from lung cancer.

Durbin also highlighted the importance of committing to strong and sustained funding increases for national medical and scientific research centers to ensure that the U.S. remains a leader in medical research while providing better health care outcomes for those fighting serious illnesses.  Expanding on this effort, since 2014, Durbin has introduced the American Cures Act, which would ensure that medical researchers and scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Defense Health Program, and the Veterans’ Affairs Medical and Prosthetics Research Program would continuously receive funding for their work, with a five percent real funding growth annually.  Since first introducing this legislation, Senator Durbin has successfully secured a nearly 60 percent funding increase for NIH.

Photos of the event can be found here and Durbin’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below:

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin Remarks Accepting Cancer Research Ally Award

May 15, 2024

As prepared for delivery

Good evening.  Thank you to the Association of American Cancer Institutes and the American Association for Cancer Research for this Cancer Research Ally award. 

Let me tell you a brief story.  After 100 days in his hospital bed, my father—who smoked two packs of Camels a day—died of lung cancer.  He was only 53.  I was only 14.

I know personally the devastation of hearing that a loved one has gotten a cancer diagnosis.

And if you’ve ever been a patient and heard those three dreaded words: “You have cancer.”  You know what your next three words are: “Is there treatment?”

Thanks to the incredible research led by many of you in the room today, and funded by the National Institutes of Health, a cancer diagnosis is increasingly treatable and, in some cases, curable.

The NIH is saving lives.  And, in Congress, we must do our job to support this noble effort.  From 2015 to 2023, we increased the NIH’s budget by 60 percent, or by $18 billion.

But Congress only provided a meager 2 percent increase to NIH’s funding in FY24—barely keeping pace with inflation.

Failing to adequately fund NIH would be devastating for patients, our economy, and our leadership on cancer research. 

In 2022 alone, NIH generated nearly $97 billion in economic activity.  And it awarded more than 60,000 grants that directly support more than 300,000 researchers.

But cancer research does not only mean “finding a treatment.”  It also means ensuring patients can access the medication. 

Whether in Chicago or southern Illinois, we face unacceptable disparities in cancer prevalence and outcomes. 

We must ensure that the promise of new discoveries is being translated into progress for all communities, regardless of zip code or the color of your skin.   

Additionally, the average new cancer drug enters the market with a list price of more than $200,000 per year.  That is unfathomable.

And while many cancer drugs may help shrink a tumor, they also can create harsh side effects and financial hardship for patients.

Recent studies have demonstrated that de-escalating doses can save patients money without compromising efficacy…another example of what “cancer research” means today.

Millions of families, including mine, have been touched by cancer.

I am committed to advancing research, treatment, and prevention—including holding Big Tobacco accountable and ensuring FDA regulates cancer-causing activities, like smoking.

Thank you for all you do.  And once again, thank you for this award.  It is an honor to be your partner in this life-saving work.