The MRF continues to advocate for increased research funding in order to one day achieve a world without melanoma. The federal government is the largest funder of cancer research in the world and continued innovation in melanoma prevention, detection and treatment is only possible with continued investment in high-quality research
Defense-Funded Melanoma Research
From Fiscal Years 2009 to 2018, melanoma researchers were eligible to receive Defense funding through the Peer Reviewed Cancer Research Program (PRCRP). Over that time period, the Department of Defense through the PRCRP funded $52.5 million in melanoma research.
In September 2018, MRF Advocates rallied to make melanoma a national priority and they won! Congress passed and the President signed into law the Fiscal 2019 Defense Appropriations bill, H.R. 6157, which included a separate line item for Defense-funded melanoma research, and provided a $10 million appropriation for the program. This $10 million line item is the first time melanoma research received dedicated Department of Defense (DOD) funding and represented a historic moment for the melanoma community.
In December 2020, both Houses of Congress passed the final version of the FY 2021 Department of Defense (DOD) Appropriations bill and included $30 million for melanoma research within the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP). The $30 million for the Peer Reviewed Melanoma Research Program is a $10 million increase over FY 2020 appropriations. Although, we are grateful for the breakthrough science funded by this program, it is still not enough!
A 2014 Military Medicine Study found that the overall incidence rate for melanoma in active duty military personnel between 2000 and 2007 was 62% greater than the general population during the same period.
- Melanoma rates were significantly higher for active duty warfighters over 45 than for the general population, according to an earlier 2010 study published in Military Medicine.
- A Vanderbilt School of Medicine study–citing the following statistics–only 22% of military personnel were made aware of the risks of sun exposure; while 77% reported being exposed to bright sunlight for more than 4 hours a day, with only 27% having regular access to sunscreen—concluded
- “The past decade of United States’ combat missions, including operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, have occurred at a more equatorial latitude than the mean center of the United States population, increasing the potential for ultraviolent irradiance and the development of skin cancer.’
The US is failing in melanoma prevention, and it is particularly impacting the military, a global perspective shows we can do better.
As documented – melanoma rates among the military occur greater than among the general US population. And among the U.S. general population – it is one of the fastest growing cancers in terms of incidence, tripling rates over three decades. It is also one of the most environmentally driven cancers – linked to UV damage to the skin. As such, melanoma is highly preventable, but little has been invested in the U.S. in the prevention of melanoma. Where substantial investment of federal government has occurred – as in Australia – it has been shown that rates can be brought down, but currently rates continue to go up in the U.S. In 2019 – the CDMRP prioritized prevention as a focus, but we have a long way to go if we are to reverse the increasing melanoma rates among Americans, and particularly among warfighters who face greater sun exposure than many others.
- According to DOD/CDMRP/MRP staff , the Program Announcement associated with the Fiscal 2019 CDMRP Melanoma Research Program (MRP) received 163 competitive applications.
- Only 17 awards, less than 11% of applicants, were granted that year at an average of $500k each. The lower rate of percent would indicate several strong proposals that could advance the work but were not funded due to insufficient resources.
- Of the 146 applications that will not be funded, 34% of them were considered excellent and outstanding. That translates to 50 grant applications that could have been funded with an additional appropriation.
- If all the excellent grants were funded, at an average grant size of $500,00, that would require $25 million in additional funding for the MRP + 14% tap for administering the program for total of $28.5 million + $10 million = $38.5 million in 2019.
- While $38.5 million would have been needed in 2019 to fund all of the excellent and outstanding applications, that number is anticipated to grow even larger for FY2022 due to new areas of research opening up in melanoma and the continued unmet needs for active duty service members related to melanoma.
With over 1.3 million Americans living with melanoma, we cannot afford to leave life-saving research on the table!
Take action now and urge your House Representatives to sign on to Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney’s letter to support $40 million in Defense-funded melanoma research!
National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Cancer Institute (NCI) Funding
A vast amount of melanoma cancer research comes for the NCI, which is part of the NIH, the primary federal agency charged with biomedical research.
Clinical advances in melanoma – including the development of targeted therapies and immunotherapies – have emerged from decades of NCI and NIH funded basic, preclinical and clinical research. Because of these highly effective therapies, from 2012 through 2016, melanoma saw the largest decrease in death rates compared to any other major cancer type – an average of five percent per year.1
Even during a pandemic, melanoma does not go away. This is why it is more important than ever to ensure the critical work of America’s cancer researchers moves forward!
A historic number of potential cancer breakthroughs are being left on the table while the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is unable to fund hundreds of high-quality research applications every year.
Without continued increases in funding, we risk losing a generation of young investigators. To maintain the pace of progress and discovery, Congress must provide long-term, sustained increases to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the NCI.
Here’s what we are asking:
- An overall increase of $3.2 billion over the Fiscal 2021 level of $42.9 billion for the National Institutes of Health will enable more advanced biomedical research
- Support of $7.609 billion for the NCI will improve cancer research, and training and support for cancer researchers that will lead to overall declines in the rates of new melanoma cases and deaths
- Including melanoma language under NCI in the Committee Report accompanying the Fiscal 2022 LHHS Appropriations bill will directly support the improvement of melanoma cases
Supporting NIH’s Office of Rare Diseases will lead to more targeted therapies for melanoma rare subtypes: ocular, mucosal and pediatric
With the support of a powerful network of melanoma advocates, the NCI and NIH have seen a consistent increase in funding over the past several years. But there is still more work to be done in finding a cure for melanoma and its rare subtypes!
Urge your legislators to continue to support robust funding in order to improve the lives of millions of Americans living with melanoma.TAKE ACTION