Scientists, doctors and researchers have made great strides in cancer treatments and therapies over the past few decades due to an infusion of public and private funding for cancer research. Although survival rates for some cancers are higher than ever, other types of cancer – such as mesothelioma – still require significant study and exploration before more effective and less toxic drugs and treatments become available.
Mesothelioma is a rare, but serious form of cancer that affects approximately 3,000 people in the the U.S. every year. The cancer is caused by prior exposure to asbestos – a substance that is now strictly regulated. Although not all individuals who were exposed to asbestos will develop mesothelioma, those who do may undergo months or years of surgeries, drug treatments and palliative therapies in an effort to prolong life expectancy and slow the progression of the cancer.
Because mesothelioma is such an aggressive disease, many mesothelioma patients and their families have placed their hopes in cancer research. But unfortunately, the progress that has been made in understanding and fighting mesothelioma may soon slow significantly if federal sequestration is carried out on March 1, 2013.
What is Sequestration and How Will it Affect Mesothelioma Research?
Sequestration is a series of automatic spending cuts scheduled to go into effect unless congress intervenes. The spending cuts have garnered much attention primarily because of their effect on national defense. However, other cuts are lurking in the shadows – including spending cutbacks for medical and scientific research programs. In the long term, this could mean fewer clinical trials and research programs available to mesothelioma patients. It is estimated that the National Institutes for Health will be among those government health programs most affected.
Some worry that promising drugs and therapies will fail to be tested in a timely way, potentially slowing mesothelioma cancer research by years. This is not good news for patients, who according to The American Cancer Society, have an average life expectancy of between 4 and 18 months following an initial diagnosis. Furthermore, raising private funding for mesothelioma research is especially difficult considering it is a disease that is very rare and affects only a few thousand people in the U.S. each year.
Patients and proponents of mesothelioma research are encouraged to contact their representatives and senators to encourage members of congress to reach a budget agreement that does not prevent the continuation of cancer research or hamper the momentum that has been established in developing promising new drugs and therapies. Mesothelioma lawyers will continue to fight for just compensation for their clients who have been affected by asbestos cancer and will be urging Congress to act responsibly in the face of this threat. The federal government has a responsibility to help protect the health of its citizens, including those who are suffering with or who will eventually be diagnosed with mesothelioma.