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MU medical student heads to D.C. to talk research funding

An MU medical student, and cancer researcher, is headed to Washington D.C. Dan Miller is among a group of researchers walking the halls of the capitol asking lawmakers to pump more funding into medical research. It’s personal for Dan, he’s been living with thyroid cancer for more than ten years.

“The scariest thing is not knowing the answer to the question of whether or not I have 10 to 15 years, or more to live, or three to four,” said Miller.

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2014 there were 14.5 million U.S. residents living with a history of cancer. However, since 2004, federal money for cancer research is hard to come by.

“People in my situation, that want to continue to do research, that want to ask the big questions, that really want science to drive their inquiry, but a type of science that really tries to improve people’s lives. We’re at a situation where it’s difficult to ask those sorts of questions because there’s essentially not enough money,” said Miller.

Miller said the U.S. is a leader in biomedical research, but maybe not for long. Federal dollars going to the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, are not keeping pace with inflation, leaving a funding shortage of 21 percent.

“If we continue with this huge discrepancy in the amount of money that’s needed and the amount of money that’s provided for biomedical research, we’re going to lose that leadership role,” said Miller.

Congress’ 2016 spending bill appropriated $2 billion to the NIH. The National Cancer Institute received $264 million of that funding, but Miller said more is needed. On Tuesday, Miller will head to D.C. to make his case to U.S. Missouri lawmakers.

“Cancer is actually something that we think we can make progress on in terms of increased funding. It’s something that everybody can agree on, whether which side of the aisle you’re on,” said Miller.

The American Association for Cancer Research, the organization Miler will represent in D.C., is asking lawmakers for a 7 percent increase in NIH funding for 2017. It’s an increase of about $2.5 billion, which would go to biomedical research.

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