Department of Defense Targeted for Cancer Funds

The Hill, a newspaper for Capitol Hill workers, notes that “the 2009 defense appropriations bill has become a battleground for cancer research,” with more than a dozen senators rallying for funds to more closely examine asbestos-related cancer.

Those supporting the push for funding argue that about one-third of all mesothelioma victims are either Navy veterans or worked as a civilian employee at naval shipyards across the country during a time when the widespread use of toxic asbestos was commonplace.

“Without a steady funding stream for mesothelioma research, scientists who may have considered work in such a field have been turned off,” says Chris Hahn, the executive director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation).

“Mesothelioma starts out somewhat as an orphan disease,” Hahn said in an interview with The Hill. “It’s hard to motivate [researchers] unless there are consistent funds.”

Hahn said the main goal of the Meso Foundation is to see mesothelioma listed as a priority part of the Pentagon’s peer-reviewed medical research program. Researchers would then compete for grants from the Department of Defense.

Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) have been at the forefront of the effort to secure additional funds for research and treatment of malignant mesothelioma, which kills quickly but can lay dormant in the system for up to 50 years.

“The town of Bremerton in Washington state, near the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, has one of the highest incidences of asbestos-related cancer. And hundreds of people have been sickened or killed because of asbestos exposure from a now-defunct vermiculite mine in Libby, Mont.,” notes the article, explaining Baucus’ and Murray’s involvement in the issue.

“Advancements in the early detection and treatment of this deadly cancer are greatly needed and the mesothelioma medical and research community is well-positioned to achieve this goal,” the senators wrote to the panel’s leaders. “Funding through the Department of Defense appropriations bill is an important demonstration of our nation’s commitment to addressing the tragedy of mesothelioma and its disproportionate impact on those who serve our country.”

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