NIH budget cuts cause alarm in research circles

There's growing alarm in research circles over the prospect of looming budget cuts at the NIH. At a time when some 400 cancer trials are in the pipeline, the National Cancer Institute is warning researchers to be prepared for a 10 percent cut. The move could delay or close some 95 clinical trials. "It is important for the nation to understand that standing clinical trial infrastructure for developing new treatments for cancer is in jeopardy," said Dr. Robert L. Comis, president of the Coalition of Cancer Cooperative Groups. The budget for the NIH soared between 1998 and 2003, before flattening. Under a new budget proposal, NIH will have to pay for the country's share of global AIDS research, which it had split with the state department. Senator Tom Harkin says the budget cut for research along with several years when the NIH's budget failed to keep up with inflation amounts to a 13 percent reduction in overall funding. Just making up for the effect of inflation would cost $1.9 billion. Scientists also note that the cost of research is steadily rising, and will mean that research dollars that are available won't stretch as far as they had in the past.

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