Mesothelioma is diagnosed in about 3,500 Americans each year, making it one of the rarer forms of cancer. But rare or not, the amount of money funneled into cancer research by the federal government has dropped significantly in the last 20 years.
The drop in federal funding coincides with several new breakthroughs in mesothelioma treatment, including the examination of cell DNA and the use of immunotherapy to fight tumor growth.
A drop in federal funding
A look at new research funding by the National Cancer Institute shows a drop from 28 percent of submitted proposals in 1997 to 12 percent in 2017. Not only are fewer studies being funded but fewer proposals are being submitted as the approval rate declines.
Mesothelioma groups are looking to private philanthropists and fundraising efforts to take up the slack.
One group – the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation – supports research that has been reviewed by the group’s advisory committee. Often, funding by this group leads to more funding.
An overall lack of funds
Experts say the trend is not new. Mesothelioma research has long been underfunded when compared to other cancers.
For example, cervical cancer kills about the same number of people each year yet receives about eight times the funding as mesothelioma from federal organizations such as the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health.
Another way to look at the funding gap is to examine the amount of research money spent per patient death per disease:
- Cervical cancer: $19,000
- Breast cancer: $15,000
- Brain cancer: $13,000
- Mesothelioma: $3,000
Experts note that one reason for the funding gap is that many mesothelioma sufferers are veterans, especially from the U.S. Navy.