In this year’s State of the Union address, President Donald Trump declared: “Many childhood cancers have not seen new therapies in decades. My budget will ask the Congress for US$500 million over the next ten years to fund this critical life-saving research.” He also singled out a ten-year-old with cancer for public display. This public-relations gesture could raise false hope for those affected by cancer.
Cancer is complicated and, despite valiant efforts by researchers, cures are not easily accomplished. Throwing money at it helps, but guarantees nothing. Richard Nixon also wanted to cure cancer during his presidency; the National Cancer Act of 1971 created the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the National Institutes of Health and funded it with $400 million that year (equivalent to $2.5 billion today). Trump’s promised $50 million a year is a drop in the bucket (see also Science http://doi.org/c3xc; 2019).
Last year, the NCI had a budget of almost $6 billion. Trump’s announced increase would boost that by less than 1%. By way of comparison, the money he demands for a border wall with Mexico would more than double the NCI budget.
Nature 568, 33 (2019)