CBS Evening News Touts Harkin’s Claim That Iraq War Hurts War on Cancer
Wednesday's CBS Evening News with Katie Couric featured another "The federal government is our only hope" segment, this time focusing on the "war on cancer." Couric introduced the segment by arguing that cancer therapies were being thwarted because of "funding cuts that could delay or completely derail promising advances in the war of cancer."
The story, by CBS correspondent Wyatt Andrews, featured only one member of Congress, Iowa's Senator Tom Harkin, who echoed Couric and claimed that the "war on cancer" is in jeopardy due to war in Iraq. The "money" quote:
HARKIN: When you're spending $8 billion a month in Iraq, it's very tough to get the money for cancer research.
Of course, CBS didn't bother to find anyone to counter Senator Harkin in their segment. In reality, defense spending, together with spending on homeland security, only accounts for one-third of all new spending since 2001. There are plenty of places in the federal budget that can be streamlined and/or cut to find the necessary funding. Another unmentioned threat to progress in the "war on cancer" are the regulatory and congressional roadblocks that prevent new cancer-fighting drugs from reaching patients.
The segment's presentation as a whole implies that the only sources of funding for cancer research is from the federal government, ignoring the efforts of non-profit foundations such as St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital for pediatric cancers, and the research powerhouses of major pharmaceutical companies.
A transcript of the entire segment:
KATIE COURIC: Coming up with better therapies to treat cancer takes research, and research takes money, but according to the nation's top research centers, nine out of ten grant applications are rejected. The reason, funding cuts that could delay or completely derail promising advances in the war of cancer. Here's Wyatt Andrews.
WYATT ANDREWS: It was 36 years ago when President Richard Nixon committed the federal government to what he called a war on cancer. ‘If we can split the atom,' he told Congress, ‘we can cure this disease.'
RICHARD NIXON: Let us make a total national commitment to achieve this goal.
ANDREWS: Today, though, the nation's top scientists say that commitment is slipping.
DR. BOB CLARKE: We're trying to understand why breast cancer behaves the way that it does.
ANDREWS: Dr. Bob Clarke, a leading researcher at Georgetown, is studying why breast cancer recurs, but Clarke says his federal grant for the study was cut and that most cancer scientists are being asked to cut 30%.
ANDREWS: You submit a grant and the National Cancer Institute says, ‘We love it but cut it 30%?'
CLARKE: Yes, that's about correct. The impact is that you can't do the studies the way you want to do them.
ANDREWS: At the National Cancer Institute, where most basic cancer research gets funded, the budget had been virtually flat since 2003, with the White House this year proposing a $78 million cut. The human cost this year - 3,000 fewer patients will be in clinical trials.
CLARKE: If we do fewer clinical trials, fewer new treatments will come forward and be available to everybody.
ANDREWS: Still, the war on cancer has brought progress. Cancer-related deaths, at 554,000 per year, are going down. However, cancer survivors like Lance Armstrong argue you don't quit when you're ahead, especially when a half million dead is still a horrible number.
LANCE ARMSTRONG: That's 9/11 every two days. If they drop that bomb every two days, I'm telling you, this country would pay attention.
ANDREWS: In Congress, Senator Tom Harkin has co-sponsored a bill to increase all medical research, including funds for cancer.
TOM HARKIN: We're fighting like the dickens.
ANDREWS: The senator, who's lost four of his five siblings to cancer, blames the budget cuts on Iraq.
HARKIN: When you're spending $8 billion a month in Iraq, it's very tough to get the money for cancer research."
ANDREWS: 36 years into the war on cancer, and more patients are being cured than ever, but the white-coated front line soldiers say they're being slowed at a critical time in the battle. Wyatt Andrews, CBS News, Washington.