The Honorable Charlie Dent: Working to Ensure Funding for Research Remains a National Priority
Nearly everybody in the United States has been touched by cancer; either they have been diagnosed themselves or they have a family member or close friend who has been affected. Thanks to the work of scientists and physicians we have dramatically improved outcomes for patients with many types of cancer, but we can do better. That is why it is important for the federal government to invest in research.
I myself have had three very close family members who have had cancer. My mother was diagnosed with cancer back in the mid-1960s, when I was just three or four years old. I was too young to remember much, but her treatment at the University of Pennsylvania was successful, and we recently celebrated her 88th birthday.
My father-in-law and brother-in-law were not so fortunate. My father-in-law passed away from melanoma in January 2005, the day before I was sworn in to Congress for the first time. He had been diagnosed with metastatic melanoma just six months earlier, after having beaten it many years earlier. This experience deeply affected my family, and we are very careful to follow skin cancer prevention recommendations and be aware of sun exposure.
My brother-in-law passed away from colon cancer in February 2010. He was just 45 years old. My sister and their two young girls were devastated. This experience made me passionate about increasing awareness of and removing barriers to colorectal cancer screening, because we know that early detection improves outcomes. That is why the “Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act of 2017,” which I am sponsoring with Congressman Donald Payne, Jr. (D-NJ), is very important to me. If enacted, this new legislation would remove a barrier to colorectal cancer screening for Medicare beneficiaries. At present, Medicare will not pay the copay for the removal of a polyp(s) during a colorectal cancer screening colonoscopy. By eliminating this potential cost, we hope to increase the number of Medicare beneficiaries who undergo screening.
The experiences of my family members have also made me passionate about the work that I have done and continue to do as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations. During the last session of Congress, when I served on the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee – which is the subcommittee that appropriates funds to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – I am proud to say that we made funding medical research a high priority. We raised funding for the NIH by $2 billion in both fiscal year 2016 and fiscal year 2017.
These increases are critical because the NIH plays a vital role in improving the health and well-being of people worldwide. The basic scientific and medical research funded by the federal government through the monies it appropriates to the NIH, drives discovery and the development of new therapies and even cures. Federal investment in the NIH also improves the economic well-being of our nation and maintains America’s leadership in the life sciences.
The work of the Appropriations Committee complements other legislative efforts that I have been involved with to expedite the development and approval of lifesaving therapies for people with cancer. I worked closely with Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI) on the 21st Century Cures Act, which provides a mechanism for supporting the Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot Initiative. This is such an exciting time; we have already made a lot of progress against cancer, and we as a country must do the right thing. I am committed to ensuring that the federal government will provide the money needed for us to do better.