• November 26th at 11:39pm

    Setbacks in Mesothelioma Research Possible Due to Closure of the Only Federally-Funded Mesothelioma Program



    The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation) warns that closure of the National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank (NMVB), the only federally-funded program specifically designated for mesothelioma that recently saw its funding cut as a direct result of the sequester (officially known as the Budget Control Act of 2011), may cause setbacks in mesothelioma research.

    The NMVB is a virtual biospecimen registry designed to support and facilitate mesothelioma research. The registry, which was housed at the University of Pittsburgh, was a public resource available for use by mesothelioma researchers across the country. Run by Michael Becich, M.D., Ph.D., the NMVB was in its the seventh year of operation with a Federal Funding Notice of Award stating it would be funded until August of 2016 as long as funds were available. In August, Dr. Becich received less than 30-days’ notice, that the funding for the NMVB would be cut as a result of the sequester. This devastating news was delivered by the fiscal management team of the CDC without any input from the program officers responsible for scientifically managing the NMVB at NIOSH. The program was funded by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and was deemed as an exemplary program in the agency’s 2012 annual report.

    The virtual tissue bank was a partnership between the University of Pittsburgh, the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York University and the University of Pennsylvania.

    Investigators will still be able to request the use of biospecimens until August 31st, 2014 as the NMVB is currently under a “no-cost extension,” but without another funding source, there is no guarantee for future access. The virtual bank contains over 1,200 patient specimens.

    “We were bracing for the hits from the sequester,” said Mary Hesdorffer, a nurse practitioner with over 16 years of clinical experience in mesothelioma treatment and the executive director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, “but we never imagined something as devastating as the obliteration of mesothelioma’s only federally-funded program.”

    Mesothelioma is considered one of the most aggressive and deadly of all cancers. With only one FDA approved treatment, patients have few options and research is desperately needed.

    “The NMVB has helped numerous researchers make great strides in mesothelioma research; this is a great loss for the mesothelioma community,” added Ms. Hesdorffer.

    Mesothelioma is a malignant tumor of the lining of the lung, abdomen, or heart known to be caused by exposure to asbestos. Approximately 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year and an estimated one-third were exposed in Navy ships and shipyards.


    The Meso Foundation is the only 501©3 non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating mesothelioma and easing the suffering caused by it. The Meso Foundation actively seeks philanthropic support to fund peer-reviewed mesothelioma research; provide patient support services and education; and advocate Congress for increased federal funding for mesothelioma research. The Meso Foundation is the only non-government funder of peer reviewed scientific research to establish more effective treatments for mesothelioma and, ultimately, a cure for this extremely aggressive cancer. To date, the Foundation has awarded over $8.2 million to research.

    More information is available at http://www.curemeso.org.

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  • August 13th at 6:15pm

    Local Sequester Impacts Highlight: Indiana

    Welcome to our Local Impacts Highlight series. We’re kicking things off with a blog post from the Indiana Institute for Working Families. This blog details what the sequester means for real people – these ones from Indiana – when you drill down. Thanks to the Institute for sharing!

    NOTE: The following blog is an updated version of the Institute’s April, 2013 blog. Updates from the previous version are highlighted in red. We’ve also included a link from the folks at Coalition for Human Needs so you can Take Actionby contacting your members of Congress

    By: Derek Thomas

    Sequestration is a package of automatic spending cuts enacted under the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011. Due to disagreements over fiscal policy during the 2011 federal budget showdown, the automatic triggers - equal to $85.3 billion - were proposed by President Obama and supported by a majority of both parties in Congress to incentivize an agreement. 

    Below are details of the effects that budget cuts have had on the State of Indiana thus far. We’ll continue updating this list as the news comes in (for comparison, here are the White House estimates of the sequester effects on Indiana, and a press release from Governor Pence on the state’s proposed attempts at mitigating the effects)

    Updated (July, 2013): According to the Economic Policy Institute -  Indiana was 1 of 5 states to see the “largest percentage funding cuts for federal grants due to both the March 1 sequestration as well as the passage of the current continuing resolution…” These grants “aid states’ efforts to provide infrastructure, education, and health and social services.”


    Updated (July, 2013): In Bloomington, 12 slots for Head Start students, 25 slots for home-based Early Head Start, 72 slots for summer programs, and 15 Head Start employees will be affected by the cuts. According to WXIN Fox 59 News, Monroe County is among the first to address sequester cuts.

    Updated (August, 2013)WTHI - TV in Terre Haute reports that sequestration is responsible for “at least 20 children not able to attend Head Start…staffing cuts, and even the elimination of Head Start’s full day program.”


    Updated (August, 2013): In Title III Older Americans Act, meals are provided through three sources: home-delivered nutrition services; congregate nutrition services and; nutrition services incentives program. Here is the breakdown of cuts to each funding source.

    Updated (July, 2013): According to WFIE, News Channel 14, the Tri-State Food Bank (having already lost 1.4 million pounds of food due to budget cuts last year) has seen an additional half-million pounds lost due to sequestration cuts. 

    On March 21st, the FAA announced that it would be closing two airport control towers in the Gary and Columbus airports.  On April 15th, a handful of flights were cancelled or delayed as a result of the FAA furloughing 47,000 employees.


    Updated (April, 2013)Just Plane Crazy: Congress Protects FAA, Not Kids.

    Federally extended unemployment benefits have been cut for the long-term unemployed by 10.7%Of the 8.7% of unemployed Hoosiers, 33.5% have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks - defined as long-term unemployed.

    The Fort Wayne Housing Authority has some serious concerns and states that the funds they get for their program are currently running at only 64% of what they were and could result in cuts to low-income housing vouchers.

    The Indianapolis Housing Agency has declared a nine-day furlough of its employees and is freezing hiring and capital expenditures. 

    Updated (July, 2013): West Lafayette to See Budget Cuts After Sequester - City officials were notified that their Community Development Blok Grant would be cut. WFII Channel 18 reports that West Lafayette uses CDBG dollars for infrastructure, housing and to fund non-profit service providers. 

    The Wall St. Journal reported today that “defense spending tumbled by 33.2%, possibly reflecting spending cuts known as the sequester” - signaling a likely continuation of the activity listed below:

    The South Shore Air Show in Hammond, Indiana is still debating whether or not to schedule their show in lieu of the sequestration.

    For the Indianapolis 500, there will not be any scheduled federally funded flyovers during the race or any active duty military parades. 

    • Updated (July, 2013)Furloughs 10,000 Civilian Defense Workers in Indiana - According to the Indianapolis Star, each worker will face 11 days of furlough. The Star also reports that, “[b]ecause these budget cuts were so large, they will force unavoidable changes for the city of 46,000." 

    One thousand full-time guard staffers from Indiana National Guard are preparing for furloughs - resulting in a 20% pay reduction for 14 weeks.

    Congress’ inability to restore these cuts will continue to have a disproportionate effect on low-income Hoosier families. These reckless and widespread cuts (alongside the inability of state and federal lawmakers to prioritize our most vulnerable families, children and seniors) will only further exacerbate the Status of Working Families (see 2012 Report here) - defined by increasing poverty, declining opportunities, stagnating wages and challenges to educational attainment necessary to create high-wage job growth.

    TAKE ACTION (via the Coalition on Human Needs): Email Congress - No More Sequester CutsFollow the link above to contact your "representative and senators during the recess and tell them that we need to invest in the services that allow people to move forward. Congress has headed home for its August recess.  They left with sequestration cuts still in place and more looming if they don’t take action to end them.”

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  • August 8th at 6:26pm

    The Call to Service, Silenced

    When President Lyndon B. Johnson founded the Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) program in 1965, he was enlisting a generation of young people to help fight a War on Poverty. When President Bill Clinton incorporated VISTA into AmeriCorps in 1993, it was part of his vision to form a Peace Corps on American soil.

    And when sequestration gutted VISTA’s $95 million budget, it crippled the programs’ efforts to serve some of the people who need it most, cutting nearly 600 positions nationwide.

    Whether it’s an urban setting like New York City, or a rural one like the Appalachian Coal Country region, cuts are forcing these programs to scale back their efforts to help America’s most vulnerable citizens. West Virginia alone has lost 50 VISTA workers. Many work for the Appalachian Coal Country Team, whose members are so dedicated they’re launching an online video campaign to restore funding so they can continue draining acid mines and aiding development in the region.

    The Big Apple now has to feed its hungry with nine fewer full-time and 12 fewer part-time AmeriCorps members working for the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. Those numbers may not seem like much, but without them the Coalition will no longer be able to provide support services and education to 46,000 low-income individuals to help alleviate long-term hunger, nor will they recruit some 4,189 volunteers like they did last year, or conduct any more of the nutrition education sessions that helped 300 youths in the past year.

    From a logical standpoint, the saddest part about this is the enormous damage-done/fiscal savings ratio. VISTA represents less than .01% of the federal budget, so the difference in full and partial funding for the program amounts to hardly a blip on the Federal Government’s radar. They’ve supported programs across the country that do incredible good for thousands of people (again – look at the impact just 21 members in NYC can have), all in exchange for a few dollars that don’t come close to solving America’s fiscal crisis.

    The disturbing harm/benefit ratio shows up again and again in Congress’ insistence on decimating so-called “discretionary” programs, even though those programs are not the drivers of our debt. Cutting every dollar from these programs would not solve our deficit problem. Yet Congress persists.

    And in the case of our Americorps and VISTA members, there’s a deeper tragedy even than the people who won’t receive the services they need. It’s the message America’s young people are getting loud and clear. It’s fashionable to decry the self-interestedness of the millennial generation that’s now coming of age. But in an era when delinquent banks receive a blank check from the federal government for crashing the global economy, our inability to spare comparative pennies for public service shows the millennials that do-gooders – and the people they help – simply aren’t a priority here.

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