Debt Ceiling Deal Could Harm Cancer Research Efforts

Stagnant Federal Funding Could Leave Cancer Patients and Doctors with Fewer Treatment Choices, Weaken U.S. Role as a Global Research Leader
For immediate release
May 31, 2023


Allison Miller

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Today the U.S. House is poised to vote on legislation to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. The proposal includes flat funding for non-defense discretionary spending in FY 2024 and a 1% funding increase in FY 2025. This would considerably restrict potential resources for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Cancer Institute (NCI) at a time when scientists are on the cusp of so many promising cancer discoveries. 

A statement from the Association of Clinical Oncology Board Chair, Lori J. Pierce, MD, FASTRO, FASCO, follows:

“We call on lawmakers to keep cancer patients, doctors, and the entire cancer research community at the forefront as they soon begin the difficult work of determining how to allocate resources under this deal.

“Capping domestic spending at current levels and allowing only a 1% increase in 2025, could deal a significant blow to cancer research and slow the pace and progress necessary to advance medical science and save more lives from the disease.

"Currently, NCI can only fund one out of every seven grant applications it receives. As inflation erodes total resources, flat funding will mean even less research is conducted and that will translate to fewer new discoveries to prevent, detect and treat a disease that more than 1.9 million people in America will be diagnosed with this year alone.

“In the past, Congress has made strong bipartisan investments in cancer research and the results have been remarkable. There are now a record 18 million American cancer survivors alive today and cancer mortality rates have declined by 33% since 1991. But past success does not guarantee future progress. We need sustained year-over-year increases in research funding, especially if we are going to achieve the National Cancer Plan and Cancer Moonshot goal of reducing the cancer death rate by half in the next 25 years.

“Stagnant NIH and NCI funding also risks discouraging young researchers from going into or continuing their careers in medical research and that will jeopardize decades of possible breakthroughs and weaken the United States’ status as a leader of medical research and innovation.

“We understand lawmakers must make difficult budgetary decisions, but investing in cancer research should remain a top bipartisan priority; the risks of doing otherwise are simply too high and the potential loss of life too devastating to consider.”

About ASCO: 

The Association for Clinical Oncology (ASCO®) is a 501 (c)(6) organization that represents nearly 45,000 oncology professionals who care for people living with cancer. Established by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. in 2019, ASCO works to ensure that all individuals with cancer have access to high quality, equitable care; that the cancer care delivery system supports optimal cancer care; and that our nation supports robust federal funding for research on the prevention, screening, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. Learn more at and follow us on Twitter at @ASCO.