Successful outcomes from cancer research are the product of significant investments, not just of financial resources, but of time and professional dedication. Future success depends on sustained commitment to research so that we can truly deliver on the promise of personalized medicine. In order to fulfill this vital mission, the principles of the highest-quality scientific investigation, the development of enabling advanced technologies, and a pipeline of well-trained scientists and clinicians must be sustained.
The National Cancer Institute is acting strategically to capture and leverage the opportunities before us, by building on previous research successes and wisely spending every dollar we receive. Emerging and expanding opportunities, reflected in this document, have been identified not in a vacuum, but by carefully listening to the entire oncology research community. NCI has the mandate to lead this effort, in addressing the fundamental issues that accompany the “preemption of cancer at every opportunity” and “assurance of the best outcomes for all”: the dual core of the National Cancer Program.
The Impact of an Increased Budget: Recruitment and Funding of Scientists
NCI’s ability to attract new, talented people into cancer research hinges on many factors, including continued financial investment. These young scientists are crucial for generating new ideas and translating them into scientific discoveries that benefit patients everywhere. An increase in scientific grant-supported research is absolutely necessary to encourage new scientists to bring their talents to cancer research rather than pursuing other well-funded areas, or to leave science all together.
A sign of this growing need can be seen in the fact that the average age of a first-time NIH grant recipient is now over 41—up from 34 in 1970. Grants receiving scores that in times of greater resources were competitive, now are not funded. Furthermore, the number of training awards for scientists has stayed level in recent years, even though the number of applications has continued to rise. This reality can be discouraging for seasoned scientists as well as trainees who, unable to obtain funding, are pursuing other careers at a time when we need them the most.
These young scientists are crucial for generating new ideas and translating them into scientific discoveries that benefit patients everywhere.
NCI recognizes the need to train individuals in new technologies, to foster team science, and to increase our research capacity. We are hopeful that the resources can be found to support training and career development.
Seizing the Opportunities at Hand
This plan—and the accompanying budget request—outline NCI’s highest priorities for Fiscal Year 2009. With sufficient national investment:
The timing of these priorities coincides with a period when our country is experiencing an increase in new cancer cases, as the first wave of “baby boomers” begins to pass the age of 60 into the age bracket in which most cancers occur. Meanwhile, cancer will continue to affect people of all ages, and virtually every American will know someone affected by this disease. Our national investment in cancer research and treatment must be equal to the passion of our scientists and clinicians to ensure that the burden of cancer be lifted for all people.