Director's Update Archive: 2006
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- 12/12/2006 - An Occasion to Commemorate
Welcome to the final issue of the NCI Cancer Bulletin for 2006. This issue is very special, not just because it's the conclusion of the Bulletin's third year, but because it's dedicated to an important event: the 35th anniversary of the enactment of the National Cancer Act of 1971 (NCA).
- 12/05/2006 - The Power of Numbers: Melding Genomics and Epidemiology
NCI is moving on a number of fronts to harness the power of new genomic technology through epidemiologic studies designed to uncover gene variants that contribute to cancer susceptibility. Findings from NCI's portfolio of family studies have formed the basis for our understanding of many high-penetrant cancer-causing mutations. These rare mutations give unprecedented insights into carcinogenic mechanisms, but are responsible for only a small proportion of all cancer. Most cancer risk is believed to be due to gene-environment interactions involving low-penetrant but common genetic variants or single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).
- 11/28/2006 - All Ireland-NCI Consortium Rolls On
Approximately 2 years ago, in a special issue of the NCI Cancer Bulletin, there was a photo of Dr. Joe Harford, head of the NCI Office of International Affairs, with several dignitaries, holding a scale model of a new cancer research facility to be built in Belfast, Northern Ireland. About 2 weeks ago, I had the opportunity to tour the newly constructed facility, the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) on the campus of Queen's University Belfast.
- 11/21/2006 - Initiative TARGETs Childhood Cancer
Although there has been an explosion in the development of molecularly targeted therapies, these advances have been largely limited to the treatment of adult cancers. The need for new treatment approaches for childhood cancers, however, is substantial. The dramatic improvements in outcome seen over the last several decades have slowed, and, in many cases, current treatment approaches for childhood cancers cause serious short- and long-term side effects.
- 11/14/2006 - What's Next for Cancer Stem Cells?
The concept of cancer stem cells has generated great excitement in the research community. These cells - the hallmark of which is resistance to therapy and the ability to self-renew and produce a differentiated population of daughter cells - have been identified in many solid and hematopoietic cancer types.
- 11/07/2006 - NCCCP Increases Patient Access to Quality Cancer Care
NCI has created an infrastructure of clinical cancer research and cancer care that is unmatched anywhere in the world. The foundation of this successful system is the 61 NCI-designated Cancer Centers, which have been the bedrock of the continual improvements made in prevention, screening, treatment, and palliative care. However, the fact still remains that 85 percent of cancer patients receive their care at the local community level. Given this, if we are to bring the latest scientific advances to the patient, we must continue to develop programs to reach them in the communities where they live.
- 10/31/2006 - Help Choose the Next Roadmap Initiatives
I'd like to draw the entire cancer community's attention to a Request for Information (RFI) in the October 20 issue of NIH Guide to Grants and Contracts. This important new RFI is soliciting suggestions for new initiatives that will improve and accelerate biomedical and behavioral research and its impact on public health, to be implemented under the aegis of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research.
- 10/24/2006 - NCI Director's Swearing-In Remarks
Mr. Secretary, Dr. Zerhouni, fellow directors of the institutes and centers of the National Institutes of Health [NIH], honored guests, NCI colleagues, and my many friends: I am deeply indebted to all of you for being here today and for sharing with me this very special occasion in my life.
- 10/17/2006 - The Science of Survivorship from a Personal Perspective
NCI is dedicated to science at the highest level: research that leads to effective interventions with reduced toxicity; diagnosis at earlier, more treatable stages; and prevention strategies based on a molecular understanding of carcinogenesis and targeted interventions. But our mission to reduce the burden of cancer doesn't end there. A vital component of NCI's research focuses on America's growing population of cancer survivors, who now number more than 10 million, up from only 3 million in 1971.
- 10/10/2006 - The Biomarkers Consortium: A Unique Public-Private Partnership to Advance 21st Century Medicine
Last week marked the launch of an unprecedented public-private research partnership called the Biomarkers Consortium. This unique partnership will design and perform clinical studies to validate biological markers that are deemed to be of value in accelerating the development and regulatory review processes for new drugs, biologics, and technologies to treat, detect, and prevent a variety of diseases, including cancer.
- 10/03/2006 - CEI: Advancing Immunology and Immunotherapies for Cancer
The Center of Excellence in Immunology (CEI) is one of five Centers of Excellence in the NCI intramural research program (IRP). CEI's mission is to foster discovery, development, and delivery of novel immunologic approaches to prevent and treat cancer and cancer-associated viral diseases. CEI comprises a 19-member steering committee and a faculty of approximately 100 principal investigators and staff scientists from more than 20 different Center for Cancer Research (CCR) laboratories, programs, and branches. CEI faculty includes two members of the National Academy of Sciences and five members of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.
- 09/26/2006 - Workshop Helps RAID Program Adapt, Evolve
Launched in 1998, NCI's Rapid Access to Intervention Development (RAID) program has become an important resource for investigators engaged in anticancer therapeutics development. In July 2005, a workshop was held to comprehensively review the RAID program, and determine ways to improve its effectiveness and overall operation.
- 09/19/2006 - A Vision of Progress
Now that it is official, let me emphasize once again what a special honor it is to lead the world's preeminent cancer research organization, especially at a time when our opportunities for progress are without precedent.
- 09/12/2006 - Unique Program Fosters Technology Development
Last week, more than 100 NCI-sponsored investigators met in Bethesda, Md., to discuss their projects and share ideas about the best ways to develop the technologies of the future. With just a glance at the agenda, you can see that this 2-day session echoed many of the exciting themes of today's cancer research: biomarkers, proteomics, signal transduction pathways, cellular imaging, and identification of cancer stem cells.
- 09/05/2006 - NCI Committed to Colorectal Cancer Prevention
Over the last several years, there has been important progress in clinical research testing the cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitor celecoxib (Celebrex) to prevent the recurrence of colon polyps in individuals who have had such polyps removed. This includes the recently published efficacy results of two phase III trials - the Adenoma Prevention with Celecoxib (APC) and PreSAP trials - both of which demonstrated a significant reduction in the recurrence of colon polyps among participants taking celecoxib compared with placebo.
- 08/15/2006 - Getting New Interventions to Patients More Quickly
There is much excitement in the cancer research community about the rapid discovery of biomarkers. These discoveries range from protein signatures that may predict recurrence or response to therapy, to new imaging technologies that measure the extent of drug-target interactions. The combination of these types of biomarker discoveries with studies that are demonstrating the predictive prowess of gene-expression profiles, like the one highlighted in this week's lead story, is generating tremendous optimism about the future of personalized oncology care.
- 08/08/2006 - Focusing on Cancer Stem Cells
Many solid tumors appear to have a small population of stem cells that are partially resistant to chemotherapy and can perpetuate themselves indefinitely. These cancer stem cells thus far have been isolated from breast and brain tumors as well as blood. The exact origin of these cancer stem cells remains to be defined.
- 08/01/2006 - A New Platform for Cancer Research Advances
Traditionally, much of laboratory-based cancer research has focused on the inner workings of the cancer cell or a specific cancer gene. As a result, we have generated a formidable - although still incomplete - understanding of cancer cell biology.
- 07/25/2006 - Disparities Summit Offers Real Answers to Real Problems
During major meetings and conferences, it's easy to find ourselves caught up in the moment. Amid supportive colleagues, dramatic presentations, and positive pronouncements, we embrace the spirit of the gathering and find a wellspring of enthusiasm and energy for tackling the challenges that lie ahead. But the real test is what happens when the meeting is over. Will we keep our commitment and resolve when we return home and are faced with the realities that can sap that enthusiasm and energy?
- 07/18/2006 - CISNET Offers Powerful New Tools for Cancer Control
Major decisions about population-level cancer control are sometimes difficult, as is evaluating the success of those choices. Six years after its creation, the Cancer Intervention and Surveillance Modeling Network (CISNET) is emerging as a powerful new tool to guide clinical and policy decisions on cancer control.
- 07/11/2006 - A Shared Commitment to a Global Problem
The recent approval of a vaccine that protects against infection by four types of human papillomavirus (HPV), thus preventing the cause of approximately 70 percent of cervical cancer cases, provides an excellent reminder of how our research efforts in the United States stand to benefit millions of people around the world. Approximately 80 percent of cervical cancer cases occur in the developing world, so the availability of this vaccine, as well as other HPV vaccines in development, will have a major impact on international public health.
- 07/05/2006 - An Important Message from NCI
Today's issue begins with a slightly revised format because I felt the topic of this Director's Update - the basic facts behind NCI's budget - warranted extended discussion.
- 06/27/2006 - NCI's Advocacy Summit Educates and Inspires
The dedication and enthusiasm of the advocacy community were palpable last week on the NIH campus. The occasion was the inaugural NCI advocacy summit, Listening and Learning Together: Building a Bridge of Trust, hosted by the NCI Director's Consumer Liaison Group (DCLG) and cosponsored by the NCI Office of Liaison Activities (OLA) and the Foundation for the NIH.
- 06/20/2006 - Using NCI's Expertise to Prepare for Avian Flu
Avian flu strain H5N1 represents a potentially devastating threat to public health in the United States, and preparation for its arrival on our shores is one of our nation's utmost priorities.
- 06/13/2006 - Taking Pride in an Important Achievement
An important public health milestone was reached last week when FDA approved a vaccine that prevents infection by the two types of the human papillomavirus (HPV) responsible for up to 70 percent of cervical cancer cases worldwide, HPV 16 and HPV 18, as well as two other HPV types, HPV 6 and HPV 11, that cause benign genital warts.
- 06/06/2006 - Honored to Help Bring New Treatments to Patients
Last week Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt appointed me Acting NCI Director, effective June 11. It's an honor to be asked to head the largest cancer research organization in the world for any period of time, and I am eager to continue the work I've been engaged in at NCI over this past year.
- 05/30/2006 - Continuing the Legacy of a Great Leader
Last week, the world lost one of its most important public health leaders, Dr. Lee Jong-Wook, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO). It's not often that the passing of a single individual is mourned by people worldwide, but in the case of Dr. Lee, it's absolutely true.
- 05/23/2006 - New Focus on Lung Cancer Research
Lung cancer continues to be one of the biggest public health challenges facing the United States and many other countries. Although incidence rates have stabilized, more than 173,000 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed this year, and it will continue to be the most common cause of cancer death among men and women, with more than 163,000 people succumbing to the disease each year.
- 05/16/2006 - NCI-Frederick: Helping to Transform Cancer Research
The 10th annual Spring Research Festival on the NCI campus in Frederick, Md. (NCI-Frederick), kicks off later this week. The festival has become a welcome tradition and a great way for those on campus to highlight a unique component of NCI and its mission.
- 05/09/2006 - Cancer Center Directors Ready to Take on Greater Leadership Role
Last week, NCI's senior leadership hosted our semi-annual meeting in Washington, D.C., of the directors of all NCI-designated Cancer Centers. This was the fourth such meeting with NCI, a dialogue I began during my presidency of the Association of American Cancer Institutes. As with the previous meetings, its goal was to encourage frank discussions and gain honest input from the directors on some of the most pressing issues facing NCI - a dialogue never more important than in this period of decreasing NCI budgets. Every aspect of the Center Directors' mission - from core grant support to Center members' R01s - is feeling the pressure of few dollars.
- 05/02/2006 - Finding New and Valuable Research Partners
That cancer is an immensely complex disease is not a new observation. It has the remarkable capacity to persist silently until it has advanced to a state of imminent lethality; to withstand powerful cytotoxic therapies; and to co-opt other tissue cytokines from the tumor microenvironment in order to proliferate, invade, and metastasize.
- 04/25/2006 - Promoting the Development and Delivery of Targeted Therapies
Earlier this month at the American Association of Cancer Research annual meeting, impressive data were presented from a phase II trial testing the multitargeted kinase inhibitor dasatinib (BMS-354825) in patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) who had failed to respond to or had developed resistance to imatinib (Gleevec). In chronic-phase CML patients, for instance, 93 percent had a complete hematologic response, meaning normal blood counts and no CML-related symptoms.
- 04/18/2006 - Minority Cancer Awareness Week: A Time to Reflect
Each year, we learn more about the devastating impact of cancer on minority communities. Whether it is the burden of one type of cancer on a particular minority population, or disproportionate mortality when comparing minorities with whites, cancer disparities exact a huge toll on society. As long as these disparities exist, our work to eliminate suffering and death due to cancer is far from complete.
- 04/11/2006 - Cancer Control Month: A Message of Hope
President George W. Bush proclaimed April as National Cancer Control Month to "encourage citizens, government agencies, private businesses, nonprofit organizations, and other interested groups to join in activities that will increase awareness of how to prevent and control cancer." The President's official proclamation gave recognition to the goal of increasing public awareness and encouraging people to help themselves prevent certain types of cancer. He urged individuals to take a number of proven steps to reduce their risk, such as avoiding tobacco, eating well, and exercising regularly. In addition, he encourages "all Americans to get regular preventive screenings and speak with a health care provider about additional ways to reduce the risk of developing cancer."
- 04/04/2006 - Embracing Opportunities and Overcoming Challenges
There was palpable enthusiasm this week at the AACR annual meeting in Washington, D.C., and it was warranted, given the excellent quality of science being presented and the many exciting research opportunities emerging. The meeting comes at a time of significant leadership change at NCI. With the nomination of Dr. von Eschenbach to be FDA commissioner, there is the expected speculation and concern about future NCI leadership. A dip in NCI's budget adds worries that progress will be dampened. These are valid concerns that I addressed during my remarks on April 2 at AACR.
- 03/28/2006 - NCI's CIS Celebrates 30 Years
In 1971, the National Cancer Act greatly broadened NCI's scope and responsibilities. In addition to conducting and supporting research and training the next generation of investigators, NCI was also tasked with providing patients and health professionals with comprehensive, accurate information on the most recent advances in cancer treatment and prevention.
- 03/21/2006 - Progress and Opportunity
Last week, President Bush nominated me to be the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). I have enjoyed serving as interim FDA commissioner, a post I have held since last September, and am honored by the President's decision to nominate me for this important public health leadership position.
- 03/14/2006 - NCI's Tobacco Control Research Yields Results
This is an exciting time in tobacco control research, particularly because of the excellent progress that has been made in smoking prevention and cessation.
- 03/07/2006 - Strategic Plan Focuses Research Efforts
Today marks the release of a document that's the culmination of a tremendous amount of work and deliberation over the past few years: an NCI Strategic Plan that outlines the strategies for achieving NCI's goal of eliminating the suffering and death due to cancer.
- 02/28/2006 - Angiogenesis Initiative Fueling Collaboration
One of the most exciting new frontiers in cancer research is the increased focus on the tumor microenvironment. A major focus of this work is on the role of angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels to provide nutrients and oxygen to sustain the earliest development of a primary cancer or a metastasis. It was approximately 25 years ago that Dr. Judah Folkman first theorized in the pages of the NEJM that tumors needed to grow new blood vessels to fuel their development. Just 2 years ago, bevacizumab (Avastin) became the first agent specifically developed as an angiogenesis inhibitor to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in cancer patients to treat metastatic colorectal cancer.
- 02/21/2006 - Multiple PIs Will Promote Team Science
Conducting biomedical research has become a remarkably complex undertaking. Today, cancer researchers are asking highly sophisticated questions and proposing multifaceted scientific initiatives that require expertise from many individuals - individuals coming from quite different scientific backgrounds. These collective approaches, often using advanced technology platforms and intricate analytical tools, are allowing researchers the ability to apply a systems approach to the study of diseases such as cancer. Both the complexity of the research and the sophistication of the technology require a team approach.
- 02/14/2006 - Tough Choices, Continued Progress
Last week it was announced that the absolute number of annual cancer deaths has fallen for the first time in seven decades. The death rates from cancer have been declining since 1993, but now the actual number of cancer-related mortalities are yielding to our efforts. To my mind, that's momentous news. It proves that our antismoking messages, technologies that allow for earlier detection of disease, and improved treatments are having an impact. It also proves that our expectation of continued progress against cancer is well founded.
- 02/07/2006 - Clinical Trial Program Restructuring Advancing Quickly
A new NCI organizational structure, designed to oversee the institute's entire clinical trials enterprise, was unveiled today at the NCAB meeting.
- 01/31/2006 - NCI's Intramural Program: A Cornerstone for Success
To the public, NCI is often thought of in terms of being the largest supporter of cancer research in the world. That is clearly one of NCI's most important functions. Perhaps the untold story, however, is the outstanding research being carried out by the talented scientists and clinicians in the institute's intramural program, the foundation of which entails the Center for Cancer Research (CCR) and the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (DCEG).
- 01/24/2006 - Bulletin Reaches an Important Milestone
It's been a little more than 2 years since the launch of the NCI Cancer Bulletin. This week we reach our 100th issue, an important milestone not just for the Bulletin but, in my view, for the entire institute.
- 01/17/2006 - NCI Advisors Explore Future Research Investment Strategies
Last week, NCI leadership held an important retreat with members of the institute's primary advisory panels. This was the 3rd annual NCI Joint Boards Retreat, and together we grappled with how NCI programs can continue their pioneering innovative trajectory, given the current fiscal limitations facing biomedical research.
- 01/10/2006 - Supporting Cancer Drug Development
NCI has an important role to play in the drug development process in the United States. From its expansive clinical trials program to the drug discovery research it performs and funds, the institute believes it has an essential duty to expedite the discovery and development of interventions that will save lives.
- 01/03/2006 - A Glimpse of Things to Come
It's been nearly 3 years since I announced the 2015 challenge goal to eliminate the suffering and death due to cancer. Inherent in establishing this challenge was a commitment: NCI would pledge to accelerate the pace of progress. It would commit to build on the past and provide the leadership for creating the future. It would pledge to being courageous when facts dictated a need for change, but also to being cooperative and collaborative when reality dictated that teamwork was needed to augment individual excellence.
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