WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA)-- If Congress and President Barack Obama cannot find a budget compromise, the spending cuts that will come with sequestration will have an enormous impact in many sectors; including, a huge dent in medical research and drug development, possibly for years to come.
Funding for the budget of the National Institutes of Health will go down by more than $2.4 billion dollars. $318 million will be cut from the Food and Drug Administration, possibly delaying the approval of new treatments for patients of all ages.
One of them is Joey Norris of Kensington, Maryland. Five years ago, the 14-year-old was diagnosed with leukemia, the most common form of cancer in children and teenagers. He is now fighting a recurrence of the cancer and his family, like many others, waits and hopes for each medical advance.
Joey's mother Margaret says her son has directly benefited from federally-funded research.
She says, "His relapse was discovered because the research over the last fifty years showed you need to test the children's spinal fluid on a regular basis to see if there are cells lurking there."
But some of the research that improves, and even saves, the lives of children with cancer may soon come to a halt. The political battle over the budget that is leading toward the so-called "fiscal cliff" threatens funding to both NIH and the FDA.
Dr. Robert Arceci is a pediatric oncologist with Johns Hopkins, who says both agencies have already experienced shrinking budgets over the years. The deeper cuts that would come with the fiscal cliff, he says, would be catastrophic.
Dr. Arceci says, "Already we have seen the stopping of certain protocols for some of the rarer childhood cancers for instance, so those patients are not even getting clinical trials because the money, there is only so much to go around."
He continues, "I kind of view the NIH as being on life-support and this sort of thing (sequestration) will possibly help pull the plug on that life support in many ways. I think that research is just something with which you just don't turn the faucet on and off. There are huge investments that go on and they are long-term investments. And, somehow, I hope that this country can get its act together."
Margaret Norris is hoping for the same, as her son continues to fight leukemia. Joey, now a freshman at Good Counsel High School, has become a vocal advocate for children with cancer, and has a Facebook page that chronicles his battle:
He says, "I've never had a fear of dying. I've always had a fear of not living. This (cancer) won't keep me from living my life to the full amount."
Click the St. Baldrick's website for more information about helping kids cope with cancer.