Pancreatic Cancer Research at the Department of Defense

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Together, we have made progress against pancreatic cancer. However, research in the disease is still underfunded compared to its severity. Establishing a dedicated pancreatic cancer research program at the Department of Defense (DoD) will provide a dedicated source of funding for pancreatic cancer research to accelerate discoveries in this difficult disease.

Research funding for pancreatic cancer at the DoD is critical due to the urgent need to accelerate progress against the disease, and it complements the work of the National Cancer Institute.

Why the DoD?

Since 1992, the DoD has invested in disease research programs, including cancers, through the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP). The CDMRP was established to target gaps in current research to develop breakthroughs that benefit both the military and the American public by funding “high impact, high risk and high gain projects that other agencies may not venture to fund.”

A disease must be listed as eligible by Congress and have military relevance to be included in DoD research programs. Research shows that within a cohort of U.S. veterans, there is direct evidence for increased risk of death from pancreatic cancer.

Thanks to the hard work of PanCAN advocates, pancreatic cancer was included for the first time in 2011 in the DoD’s Peer-Reviewed Cancer Research Program (PRCRP).

Inclusion in the PRCRP was a crucial step for increasing resources for pancreatic cancer research. However, the disease has only received 1 percent of the total cancer investment by CDMRP. The next step is to create a more focused effort to accelerate progress.

A dedicated program will allow for the development of research specifically designed to address the needs of the disease, rather than the various cancer types within the PRCRP.

The pancreatic cancer research field continues to grow, and a dedicated research program could result in more grants being funded and good science moving from the lab to the clinic. Establishing a dedicated pancreatic cancer research program at the DoD can accelerate discoveries and save more lives.

Our Call to Action

Urge Congress to create a dedicated pancreatic cancer research program at the DoD.

PanCAN and advocates across the country are urging Congress to create a dedicated pancreatic cancer research program in the DoD. If we are successful, pancreatic cancer research would graduate to its own funding program – potentially resulting in tens of millions more dollars to fight the disease.

Act Now

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Latest Congressional Activity

2019 House Dear Colleague Letter
2019 Senate Dear Colleague Letter

Be In The Know

Congress works for YOU, their constituents. You are the reason Congress continues to provide robust, sustainable increases for lifesaving cancer research at the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute and the Department of Defense’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program. But there is more to be done to advance research and ensure better outcomes for patients.

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Federal Research Funding Achievements

Our advocates asked, and Congress delivered. Take a look at these wins:

  1. National Cancer Institute (NCI) funding was $17.3 million annually at the time of our founding.

  2. Dr. Randy Pausch testifies in the House Appropriations Subcommittee on L-HHS about the need for increased funding for pancreatic cancer research.


    More than 4,700 advocates send over 18,000 messages to Congress asking for increased funding for research. The result…while most other governmental agencies’ funding is cut in FY08, funding for the NCI increases. The NCI also increases the amount of funding for pancreatic cancer research from $73 million to $87 million.

  3. The Deadliest Cancers Coalition makes its debut under our leadership and secures its first win – the ALERT Act is introduced in the U.S. Senate with language specifically recognizing “high mortality cancers” as a research area that needs increased federal focus. While the bill does not ultimately become law, it helps set the stage for the eventual passage of the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act.


    Approximately 11,240 advocates send 26,150 messages to Congress and secure an additional $70 million for the NCI as part of the FY09 Supplemental funding bill.

  4. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s Director of Government Affairs provides an oral testimony to the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health about the importance of creating a new federal research focus on deadly cancers.


    Our grassroots advocates again work tirelessly and thanks to their efforts, we secure an additional $136 million for the NCI as part of the FY10 L-HHS Appropriations bill, which is an increase of 2.75 percent. This increase is significant given that most federal programs are cut.


    The NCI increases funding for the pancreatic cancer research portfolio by 2 percent.

  5. Pancreatic cancer is included for the first time in the Department of Defense’s Peer Reviewed Cancer Research Program (PRCRP), which funds high-risk, high-reward research projects. In FY11, $16 million is appropriated, which includes 12 pancreatic cancer research grants for a total of $3.7 million.

  6. The Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act passes, requiring the NCI to develop a scientific framework for pancreatic and other deadly cancers. Of the 10,439 bills introduced in the 112th Congress, only 193 become law – this is less than 2 percent.


    As a direct result of this bill, the NCI has launched a critical research program on RAS as well a number of other research grant opportunities.


    In FY12, $12.8 million is appropriated for PRCRP, which includes pancreatic cancer, for a total of $1.5 million in research grants.

  7. NCI funding for pancreatic cancer research reaches more than $101 million – a 500 percent increase since our efforts began in 1999.


    In FY13, $15 million (subject to sequestration) is appropriated for the PRCRP, which includes three pancreatic cancer grants for a total of $1.3 million.

  8. Congress passes the highest NIH funding increase in 10 years.


    Congress agrees to our ask to provide $50 million for the PRCRP and will once again include pancreatic cancer as one of the 13 types of cancer eligible for funding.

  9. President Obama announces the “Cancer Moonshot” to speed progress in developing new treatments and tools for all cancers. We send the White House a letter encouraging them to use this initiative to focus on recalcitrant cancers.

  10. While we’re grateful to Congress for the historic funding increases they provided for the NIH and NCI in FY16, we are deeply concerned that the NIH budget is still nearly 18 percent below its FY03 level. We urge Congress to support the goals of the Cancer Moonshot so that we can capitalize on promising new initiatives and maintain momentum in ongoing pancreatic cancer research.

  11. For the fourth year in a row, Congress worked in a bipartisan manner to increase medical research funding, passing an FY19 package that included a $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a $179.1 million increase for the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and a $10 million increase for the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Peer-Reviewed Cancer Research Program, where pancreatic cancer was once again included as a disease eligible for funding.

  12. We are grateful to Congress for the historic funding increases they have provided over the past several years. But with the five-year survival rate remaining at 9% for 2019, we must do more. We urge Congress to continue to fund the NCI and create a dedicated research program at the DoD, so we can capitalize on promising new initiatives and maintain momentum in ongoing pancreatic cancer research.

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