Article: Government Funding for Cancer Research


I’ve heard the government has decreased funding for cancer research. What will cancer researchers do? Where will the money come from to find a cure for cancer?

Back in 1946 no funding for cancer research, federal or otherwise, was available. Mary Lasker, an American health activist and philanthropist, was the first person to address this problem and to see research funding as the best way to promote public health. The American Cancer Society Research Program was “born” because of Ms. Lasker’s fundraising.

Things we take for granted–things that we assume have always been there–are present only because of the American Cancer Society (ACS). The extensive list of medical advancements made possible through the ACS is impressive. Since 1946, the ACS has funded 46 scientists who went on to win the Nobel Prize. The pap test for cervical cancer, chemotherapy for childhood leukemia, the double helix of our genetic material, the link between smoking and cancer, the link between sex hormones and breast and prostate cancer, the idea of combining multiple chemotherapy drugs, and the discovery of growth factors have all been discovered by funded researchers of the American Cancer Society. All of these that we take for granted were funded by money raised by volunteers, and all before 1960.

Since the 1960’s, the ACS has continued to be responsible for significant health tools. For example, the ACS can be thanked for the $1 million invested in the 1970’s to demonstrate that the mammogram was the best tool to detect breast cancer early. In 1974, an ACS funded scientist discovered that the drug Tamoxifen could prevent breast cancer. By 1981, ACS funded scientists had discovered the technique to sequence DNA, and they developed the PSA (prostate specific antigen) test for prostate screening.
What is the source for the funding of these important past and potential future medical advancements? The American Cancer Society has one staff member for every 400 volunteers. Who are these volunteers? They are you and I. Every year around the world volunteers raise money by participating in Relay For Life. Relay For Life is an organized, overnight community fundraising walk where teams of people camp out around a track with members of each team taking turns walking around the track to symbolize the journey cancer patients take. In addition to raising money for continued research, Relay For Life benefits our local cancer patients by providing gas vouchers for treatment, hosting “look good feel better” programs, and providing trained cancer information specialists who can answer questions 24 hours a day, every day of the year at 1-800-227-2345.

In summary, the American Cancer Society not only uses money raised to fund researchers that are working tirelessly to find a cure for cancer but also gives back at the local level through their programs. The best way the community can help in this fight is to participate in their local Relay For life. Because cancer never rest or sleeps, so neither do Relayers!

For more information on cancer research, call Fort Smith Radiation Oncology at (479) 648-1800. You can also visit their website at for more information.

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