What does the Government Shutdown mean for Mesothelioma?

Each week that the government is shutdown, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will be turning away 200 patients. According to a piece in the Wall Street Journal, NIH director Francis Collins said, “About 200 patients who otherwise would be admitted to the NIH Clinical Center into clinical trials each week will be turned away.”1 An estimated 1000 patients have already been turned away in the past year due to the sequester.2 The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation estimates that the NIH sees 125 mesothelioma patients per year, which means that 2.4 mesothelioma patients are being turned away from clinical trials each week that the government is shutdown.

Lisa Gonneville

Lisa Gonneville speaks at the Meso Foundation’s Congressional Briefing on mesothelioma

With only one FDA approved treatment for mesothelioma, patients often turn to clinical trials conducted at NIH after they have exhausted all of their other options. Mesothelioma warrior Lisa Gonneville, who is currently participating in a clinical trial at the NIH, shared her experience with mesothelioma to Capitol Hill staffers on Mesothelioma Awareness Day. “I’ve endured all of the treatment options available for mesothelioma, which are very limited,” said Mrs. Gonneville, “my only hope at this point is clinical trials.”

This shutdown hurts researchers as well. The NIH has already suspended intramural (in-house) research projects, and will stop accepting new patients and enrolling patients in any of the clinical trials it is conducting. If Congress remains at a stalemate, NIH-funded research at universities will continue although researchers could face funding delays. Also, some government-run databases may have problems, as support staff is furloughed. Approval of new NIH extramural grants to researchers in a university setting may be delayed as well.

The NCI Office of Advocacy Relations sent an email out yesterday confirming that no new research would begin, stating “In terms of intramural research, doctors will continue to see patients at the NIH Clinical Center; however, no new research may begin.”

Some other NIH Activities that will cease under a shutdown:

  • Initiation of new protocols at the NIH Clinical Center
  • Basic research conducted by NIH scientists
  • Translational research conducted by NIH scientists that develops clinical applications of scientific knowledge
  • Training of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows at NIH facilities
  • Scientific meetings at NIH facilities
  • Travel of NIH scientists to scientific meetings
  • NIH scientific equipment services
  • Almost all NIH administrative functions
  • NIH mail, cafeterias, and most visitor services

The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation will continue to follow the government shutdown and update the community.

View the Washington Post blog here.


Footnotes

[1] The shutdown could prevent kids with cancer from getting treatment
[2] According to the American Cancer Society

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