Videos & Speeches

Mr. President, throughout history, medical research has been responsible for hundreds of groundbreaking discoveries that have improved and saved lives, enabled health care to become more effective and efficient, and lowered overall health care costs.

May was National Cancer Research Month, and I wish to take a few minutes and recognize the importance of medical research and the invaluable contributions made by scientists, doctors, and researchers across the United States who are working not only to overcome cancer but many other devastating diseases.

With decades of research, cancer mortality rates have steadily declined since 1990, and today more than 12 million Americans are cancer survivors. In fact, the number of survivors have quadrupled since the mid-1970s, and the overall 5-year survival rate for all cancers has improved to more than 65 percent.

Decades of research and technological advances have brought us into a new era of medical care for cancer. We can now sequence all the genes of a tumor and use that information to determine the biological causes of cancer. This greater understanding of the causes of cancer has led to advances in prevention, early detection, and treatment that have saved countless lives.

Despite significant advances in research over the last few decades, much work remains to be done. More than 1.5 million Americans are expected to be diagnosed this year with cancer. It is estimated that one out of every three women and one out of every two men will develop cancer during their lifetime. In America, cancer is still the leading cause of death.

But history demonstrates that with a strong commitment to medical research, we can change these statistics not only for cancer patients but for many other patients as well. Congress's longstanding bipartisan support of the National Institutes of Health has been an integral part of establishing the United States as a world leader in research and innovation.

NIH is the focal point of our Nation's medical research and plays a critical role in laying the groundwork for the private sector to develop new drugs and treatments for cancer and other diseases. I have seen firsthand how medical research at NIH is being translated into new treatments with a visit to the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, MD, which is the Nation's largest hospital devoted to clinical research.

The Center is uniquely designed to enable researchers to work directly alongside a wide range of specialists who deliver the best possible care to patients with the most advanced treatments available. This powerful arrangement has led to a long list of revolutionary medical discoveries, including chemotherapy for cancer, the first tests to detect AIDS/HIV, and the first treatment of AIDS.

Medical research leading to successful discoveries often takes years, requiring the institutional knowledge and intellect of numerous highly qualified, committed researchers. Given the vast amount of progress made over the last century and the great potential current research holds, we must not waiver on America's commitment to advancing disease cures and treatments.

If researchers cannot rely on consistent support from Congress, we will squander current progress, stunt America's global competitiveness, and lose younger generations of doctors and scientists to alternative career paths. Our Nation's researchers and scientists must know Congress supports their work and will ensure they have the resources needed to carry out their important work.

The next century holds great promise for future discoveries. By investing in medical research, we are investing in our future. In Kansas, the bioscience industry has grown at a faster rate than the national sector since 2001. This growth opens the doors for new medical and technological advancements.

Kansas has already become a leader in advancing biomedical and bioscience research. One example of this is the University of Kansas Cancer Center in Kansas City, which has formally applied to the National Cancer Institute to become an NCI-designated cancer center.

The National Cancer Institute is a component of NIH, and it is our Nation's principal agency for cancer research and training. Obtaining NCI designation would dramatically enhance the KU Cancer Center's ability to discover, develop, and deliver innovative treatments to patients in our State, improving their quality of life.

Currently, there are no NCI-designated centers in Kansas. With that NCI designation, KU Cancer Center patients would have access to the latest clinical trials and the most advanced cancer treatments close to home. Because NCI designation is the highest recognition for an academic cancer center, KU Cancer Center would also be in a better position to recruit the best and brightest researchers and scientists to develop cutting-edge treatments and cures in Kansas.

In addition to saving and improving lives, medical research helps create thousands of jobs and drives economic growth across our country. NIH directly supports 350,000 jobs nationwide and indirectly drives more than 6 million jobs across our country.

Medical research also lowers costs by advancing treatments to chronic, debilitating diseases and improving early detection and wellness promotion. During a Senate Appropriations health subcommittee hearing last year, I asked NIH Director Francis Collins to explain how medical research at NIH could reduce health care spending. In his response, Dr. Collins pointed to the potential impact of medical research on Alzheimer's.

Today, annual costs related to Alzheimer's disease are roughly $180 billion, and those numbers are expected to rise to roughly $1 trillion by 2050. However, medical research leading to treatments that delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease could not only bring a better quality of life to thousands of families but also save billions of dollars.

Medical research has changed the lives of millions of Americans and has the potential to impact millions more because the possibilities are endless. But in order to plan for the future, scientists and researchers need certainty.

Today, Congress faces the difficult task of identifying our government's funding priorities, while at the same time righting our Nation's fiscal course. I will continue to advocate for fiscal responsibility, and I will also prioritize programs that effectively serve the American people.

Our consistent, sustained support of medical research is essential to saving and improving lives, growing our economy, and maintaining America's role as a global leader in medical innovation. This commitment will benefit our children and our country for generations to come. Most important, it will give us what we all desire, which is hope.

I yield the floor.