Orlando, Fla. -- They are the bright hope for tomorrow. Today’s young researchers are critical to carrying on the science of understanding how to prevent and treat cancer. But proposed cuts by Congress to the National of Institutes of Health will negatively impact many researchers—possibly even halting their careers.
Rebecca B. Riggins, Ph.D., an assistant professor of oncology at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, says she’s concerned about the proposed budget cuts especially now, as she prepares to apply for new grants to support her recently established laboratory. Riggins will discuss the critical nature of federal funding for junior researchers during a press briefing at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) 102nd Annual Meeting 2011 on Sunday, April 3, 2011, 3:00 p.m. ET, at the Orange Country Convention Center in room W313.
A member of Lombardi’s Breast Cancer Program, Riggins’ research addresses two distinct facets of this disease: resistance to treatment, and environmental and dietary risk factors for the development of breast cancer. She says of her prevention-focused studies “I believe within 10 years, our research will significantly contribute to our understanding of how environmental exposures affect risk in a meaningful way, such that we can understand our risk and do something about it.”
Riggins conducted her post-doctoral research at Georgetown Lombardi. With pilot data collected during that training period and her time as a mentored junior faculty member, she secured an R03 grant from the National Cancer Institute made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. She continues to get support from other granting organizations, but like so many grants these are small and are often non-renewable. With her NCI grant set to expire, Riggins is aggressively pursuing new funding to continue her work and the support of two research assistants in her lab.
“My goal is to remain in academia to fulfill my personal and professional commitment to cancer research while offering training opportunities for students at the university,” explains Riggins.
Riggins says the current funding environment is already challenging, even though NIH officials have reiterated their commitment to support new investigators. Fewer grants are funded in each cycle which means researchers constantly apply for grant after grant; for a junior investigator like Riggins who is still working in the lab alongside her trainees, this presents a significant challenge. “As my research matures, I’ll need more substantial and longer-term grants such as the R01 in order to focus on moving our research forward and avoid the year-to-year interruptions of constantly applying for grants. The proposed cuts to the NIH could dramatically impact the ability of researchers, like myself, to continue to find answers to critical research questions.”
About Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center
The Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of Georgetown University Medical Center and Georgetown University Hospital, seeks to improve the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cancer through innovative basic and clinical research, patient care, community education and outreach, and the training of cancer specialists of the future. Lombardi is one of only 41 comprehensive cancer centers in the nation, as designated by the National Cancer Institute, and the only one in the Washington, DC, area. For more information, go to http://lombardi.georgetown.edu.
About Georgetown University Medical Center
Georgetown University Medical Center is an internationally recognized academic medical center with a three-part mission of research, teaching and patient care (through MedStar Health). GUMC’s mission is carried out with a strong emphasis on public service and a dedication to the Catholic, Jesuit principle of cura personalis -- or "care of the whole person." The Medical Center includes the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing & Health Studies, both nationally ranked; Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, designated as a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute; and the Biomedical Graduate Research Organization (BGRO), which accounts for the majority of externally funded research at GUMC including a Clinical Translation and Science Award from the National Institutes of Health. In fiscal year 2009-2010, GUMC accounted for nearly 80 percent of Georgetown University's extramural research funding.