Huntsman Cancer Institute vies for state money

By By Natalie Hale and By Natalie Hale

By Natalie Hale

With cuts in federal funding for cancer research, the Huntsman Cancer Institute is seeking state support.

President Bush’s proposed budget would cut $36 million in funding for cancer research in 2008-an issue that Janet Bingham, president of the Huntsman Cancer Foundation, is concerned about.

The cancer institute, a state-owned research facility, is seeking additional funding this legislative session to help buffer the loss and keep up with other research facilities across the country.

Rep. Ron Bigelow, R-West Valley, co-chair of the Executive Appropriations Committee, was unsure if the Utah State Legislature could fulfill the cancer institute’s requests.

“The committee did the prioritization and it is down?on the list,” Bigelow said.

Currently, the cancer institute receives $3.5 million from the state from tobacco taxes, funding Bingham said she considers “precarious” and which, if lost, would strain its budget.

The request, a $10-million one-time appropriation in addition to $5 million in ongoing funds, would be used for funding research, recruiting staff, education and public outreach and maintaining current programs.

While Bingham said the total number of deaths from cancer is down, more research needs to be done.

“If we are to stem and ultimately stop the human sufferings and deaths, we must continue researching the disease at the basic (cellular and molecular) and genetics levels to understand it,” she said.

On average, Bingham said, the cancer institute sees 29 newly diagnosed cancer patients every day, with more than 38,000 patient visits in 2006 alone.

But getting any additional funding may be difficult, even with a $1.6-billion surplus in state revenue.

Bingham is hopeful that the committee will see the importance of cancer research and how it is a beneficial investment for the state despite the project’s low status.

“Basic, transitional and clinical research takes tremendous resources,” Bingham said. “We must stay with these dogged efforts for everyone now and for future generations.”