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Could Mesothelioma Research be Jeopardized by the Uncertainty of American Research Universities?

by Nancy Meredith

Research universities across the United States have been credited with many of the recent breakthroughs critical to finding new, effective treatments for mesothelioma.  Just last month, researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania reported “unusually long” survival rates for mesothelioma patients undergoing lung-sparing surgery.  The University of Hawaii continues to publish groundbreaking discoveries from their mesothelioma research efforts.  But does the precarious state of our American research universities put mesothelioma research in jeopardy?

According to a study by The Research Universities Futures Consortium, “the future of the American research university is more uncertain than it has been in the last 50 years.”  The study cited issues for uncertainty such as decreased funding at both the federal and state levels, erosion of endowments, soaring tuition costs, rising global competition and stricter compliance requirements.  Universities must face these issues, according to the report, while “At the same time expectations for university-based research to produce creative solutions for a growing list of complex problems have never been higher.”

Research in any field is expensive and time-consuming.  But when universities undertake research related to a rare disease, such as mesothelioma, the costs can be even higher with a low return on investment.   As a result many researchers rely on funding from public and private sources to run their clinical trials and to ensure continuous funding throughout the project.

Unfortunately, the authors of the study point out that inadequate funding is the central problem of the future of academic research. They report that while politicians and the general public support academic research they do not place it as a priority, and have not been willing to provide critical funding.  “Simply put, academic research enterprise cannot be sustained in the absence of additional financial support.”

The Consortium identified the following six key challenges and barriers that research institutions face today:

  • Hyper-competition and complexity,
  • Compliance and indirect cost recovery,
  • Research quality and impact,
  • Planning and decision support,
  • Value of the research university, and
  • Fragility of research administration and leadership.

The Consortium said its next step will be to develop a national strategy to address these issues to sustain and enhance “the current health and future well-being of the American research university.”

3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year.  Many of these patients rely on research and clinical trials offered by universities for treatments that may not otherwise be available.  Currently, there is no known cure for mesothelioma.

The mesothelioma community supports the research efforts of American universities, and encourages everyone to do their part in supporting mesothelioma research.  The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, a national organization dedicated to finding a cure and eradicating mesothelioma, is also the leading advocate for the disease.  The organization just hosted an Advocacy Day urging Congress to dedicate more funds to fighting the disease.

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Nancy Meredith is a blog and web content writer with more than 20 years of professional experience in the Information Technology industry. She has been writing about Mesothelioma for 4 years. Follow Nancy on Google+

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