Meso Foundation Updates its Peer-Review for Research Grant Funding

ResearchAs the only non-government funder of peer-reviewed mesothelioma research, the Meso Foundation has announced an update to its peer-review process for evaluating research grant proposals, so as to once again match the process by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The Foundation has always modeled its peer-review process after the NIH, so when the NIH made changes in 2013, the Foundation followed suit.

The change involves streamlining the reviews by eliminating the two-step process and replacing it with one step only. Instead of sending a project through two separate rounds of review, which would usually result in a total of 3-4 number of reviewers looking at each project, now all 3-4 reviewers evaluate the project in the one and only round. This ensures a quicker review turnaround and a more efficient process.

To learn more about the Meso Foundation’s research grant program, visit curemeso.org.

Congress Exhibits Bi-partisan Support for NIH Funding in both House and Senate

Advocates on Capitol HillAs Congress works to map their federal spending for Fiscal Year 2015, advocacy organizations and members of Congress alike have been announcing their funding priorities for next year. The Meso Foundation has joined One Voice Against Cancer (OVAC) in asking for $32 billion in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding, asking that Congress “end the erosion of cancer research funding.”

We are pleased to see that 186 members of the House, including 23 Republicans, support our funding request in a letter to the chairs and ranking members of both the full House Appropriations Committee and its Labor-HHS subcommittee. The letter, organized by Reps. David McKinley (R-W.Va.), Susan Davis (D-Calif.), Andre Carson (D-Ind.), and Peter King (R-N.Y.), requests that NIH receive “at least $32 billion” in FY 2015, stating:

We feel this amount is the minimum level of funding needed to reflect the rising costs associated with biomedical research. Full funding for NIH is critical if the agency is to continue to serve as the world’s preeminent medical research institution and our best hope for finding cures, improving treatments, and gaining a better understanding of the complex causes of diseases that affect millions of Americans….

The majority of the Senate (57 Senators, including 11 Republicans) signed a similar letter on April 3rd requesting the chairs and ranking members of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Labor-HHS subcommittee “maintain a strong commitment” to funding for NIH. While the letter organized by Bob Casey (D-PA) and Richard Burr (R-NC) does not mention a specific funding level for NIH, it urges appropriators “to consider the tremendous benefits of a sustained investment in the NIH.”

The Meso Foundation thanks these members of Congress for their public support of NIH funding.

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