Roswell continues fight against cancer with help from 21st Century Cures Act

Dec 14, 2016

A historic boost in cancer research funding is available across the country, thanks to the 21st Century Cures Act. Western New York’s household name in fighting the disease is ready to compete for new dollars.

Dr. Candace Johnson, President & CEO of Roswell Park Cancer Institute
Credit Chris Caya / WBFO News

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama signed into law the 21st Century Cures Act – a bill which provides $4.8 billion in new funding to the National Institutes of Health. $1.8 billion of the funding is headed towards the national Cancer Moonshot program which has been spearheaded by Vice President Joe Biden. Since joining the initiative in June, Buffalo-based Roswell Park Cancer Institute has been working on new proposals to win Moonshot grants.

“We’ve all been working up to this point where the bill would actually be put into play, said Dr. Candace Johnson, President and CEO of RPCI. “We have been getting prepared for this and trying to get our ducks in a row to be able to avail ourselves of these funds.”

Johnson said knowing the Cures Act was on the way has reinvigorated her staff.

“When something like this happens, it makes everyone smile, it makes everybody happy and it gives you sort of renewed purpose to put your grant proposal together. If you think the odds are slim because there’s no money in the system and so forth, it’s sometimes harder to get that enthusiasm up. But everyone’s jazzed about this.”

Each of the new proposals will go through the usual peer review process, and only the best will have a shot at being awarded.

“Traditionally, Roswell Park has competed very well for those dollars,” said Johnson. “So bring it on. We’re ready.”

The Moonshot program isn’t only about new funding. It’s also about speeding up cancer research.

"...bring it on. We’re ready.”

“I believe the United States of America should be the country that ends cancer once and for all,” said President Obama. “We’re already closer than a lot of folks think.”

The Moonshot program aims to accomplish a decade’s worth of research in just five years’ time by investing in new therapies, developing vaccines, and improving cancer detection. And while there’s no inside scoop on cancer research amongst the medical community, Johnson said today’s technology and the available wealth of knowledge about the disease is putting researchers closer to a cure than ever before.

“I think everyone feels that there are some very significant cures just within our reach,” said Johnson.