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U professor teaching people about federal funding of cancer research.

By Jana Cunningham, communications specialist, University Marketing and Communications

How the country spends the federal budget is a contentious issue as there are countless stakeholders pushing to secure funding. In the past, Jakob D. Jensen, professor of communication at the University of Utah and an investigator at Huntsman Cancer Institute, researched how media coverage of cancer presents a distorted picture of the disease, and that those distortions parallel funding decisions (find the article here). He has now turned his focus to examining how cancer research funding compares with the overall federal budget and has created an infographic to help put it into context.

“Recently, the White House announced a new funding program designed to accelerate cancer research,” said Jensen. “The new program provides $1 billion in additional funding and is referred to as the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative. It’s a wonderful program, but I also think it needs to be contextualized in relation to our proposed 2017 federal budget. How much is $1 billion in additional funding, and where does that put our total cancer budget?”

To that end, Jensen’s infographic visually depicts the 2017 federal budget and provides examples of how the cancer research budget compares to other expenditures, such as the Department of Defense. He pokes fun at a few areas along the way, but only as a way to illustrate the peculiar nature of the funding decisions.

“How we spend our federal budget matters. Thousands of Americans are currently battling cancer and hoping for a medical breakthrough. Those breakthroughs are driven by funding,” added Jensen.

That said, there are no easy decisions. Funding for one stakeholder means less funding for another. Jensen would like readers to consider the battle against cancer as they examine the 2017 budget allocations.

Jensen also noted that how much money the country devotes to cancer research is a difficult question to answer. For example, while the National Cancer Institute is charged with studying cancer directly it is also true that other institutes in the National Institutes of Health ultimately support cancer research. One of Jensen’s grants supports research on skin cancer control, and it is funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. In the infographic, he focuses on the budget of NCI alone as all of their funds focus on cancer research and they are the only institute with cancer as their sole and direct mission. Moreover, the comparisons aren’t that different if one considers all of the cancer research funded across NIH, which varies from year to year.









Jana Cunningham is a communications specialist at University Marketing and Communications. If you have an interesting story idea, email her at