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Roswell Park bracing for potential federal funding cuts

Chris Caya

What is the future of research at Roswell Park Cancer Institute without federal cash to pay for the research? That is the question proposed cuts by the Trump Administration has raised.

The Trump budget proposal calls for major cuts in medical research, but increases defense spending and other administration priorities. Roswell Park President and CEO Candace Johnson says details at this moment are so vague it is hard to specify the effects of the cuts, but they are proposed at a time when medical research is already recovering from the cuts from the Great Recession.

"To find those innovative approaches that are going to help so many people, we just can't gut this," Johnson says. "We're in a very exciting time in our country, as far as discoveries. We're on the cusp of some very, very exciting immunotherapy approaches, many of them they're working on at Roswell Park."

Johnson says the new cuts may mean difficulty for young scientists just moving into research at a time when there are not the grants, for example, from the National Institutes of Health, which she says are essential to the cancer center.

"We have over $80 million in grant funding from various sources and over half of that is from the NIH," Johnson says. "So cuts in that, you're just cutting out the feet out from under us. These are people that are doing work to find cures for cancer and can't do their work without these grants, that we get from the NIH."

Johnson says Roswell Park and cancer centers around the country will be pushing members of Congress to block those cuts - members like Clarence Republican Chris Collins, an investor in medical research and supporter of Roswell Park. In a statement, Collins called the proposed $5.8 billion in NIH cuts "drastic," saying he will "do whatever I can to ensure that the Appropriations Committee recognizes how crucial medical research is to Western New York and the millions of Americans whose lives could be saved with better medical research."

Johnson says the worst-case scenario of the cuts would be some layoffs at Roswell.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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