Director's Update Archive: 2005
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- 12/13/2005 - Looking Back on a Year of Success and Hope
As I revisit all that has happened over the past year in cancer research, I reach an inescapable conclusion: We are not only expanding our foundation of knowledge and tools with which rapid advances can be made in understanding the mechanisms of cancer, we are also exponentially increasing the opportunities to manage this lethal disease.
- 12/06/2005 - Strengthening the Cancer Workforce
Cancer is one of the most exciting and innovative areas of medical research. As scientists continue to make discoveries that improve our knowledge of the environmental risks that impact us daily and the germline and somatic genetic changes that drive cancer development, they are advancing the technologies and methods we use to prevent, detect, diagnose, and treat this disease.
- 11/29/2005 - Looking Back at Katrina
Among the sad overabundance of images and news stories that emerged in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, particularly those from my hometown of New Orleans, I'd like to single out one that spoke volumes about this tragedy. It was a plea posted on a Katrina message board established by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). The title: "Please help my mom." A daughter was searching for her mother's oncologist. "She has carcinoid cancer," the message read, "and I am very worried."
- 11/22/2005 - DTP Celebrates 50 Years of Advancing Cancer Research
This month, NCI celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Developmental Therapeutics Program (DTP), which has played a key role in supplying the nation's trove of treatments against cancer. Since its inception in 1955 as the Cancer Chemotherapy National Service Center, DTP has contributed to the development of 38 anticancer drugs, including paclitaxel, bortezomib, and cetuximab. Now, as part of the Division of Cancer Treatment & Diagnosis (DCTD), DTP continues its role in planning, conducting, and facilitating the discovery and development of new therapeutic agents for cancer
- 11/15/2005 - Cancer Center Directors Helping to Chart Path to 2015
Last week, I was in Dallas with the National Cancer Institute's (NCI) senior leadership team to host a retreat of the directors of all NCI-designated Cancer Centers. This was the third such retreat and, as with the first two, its goal was to encourage frank discussions and gain honest input from the directors on some of the most pressing issues facing NCI.
- 11/08/2005 - TRWG Process Moving Forward, Members Named
Since being named by Dr. von Eschenbach earlier this year to chair the Translational Research Working Group (TRWG), I have come to more fully appreciate the potential of the working group to influence how we approach translational research. We will evaluate the translational research components of the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) current portfolio and provide a blueprint for how best to harness our translational research resources. Our goal is to ensure that the processes and programs are in place at NCI to rapidly translate the scientific discoveries of the cancer community's many dedicated scientists into new interventions for preventing, diagnosing, and treating cancer.
- 11/01/2005 - Electronic Grants Submission: Are You and Your Institution Ready?
The National Institutes of Health (NIH), including the National Cancer Institute (NCI), provide extensive financial support for researchers in the United States and throughout the world to understand, prevent, and cure diseases and chronic disorders. Acquiring NIH support begins with the submission of a grant application. Until now, this process has been entirely paper based, requiring extensive organization, printing, scanning, and data-entry hours - both on the investigator's end and at NIH.
- 10/25/2005 - No Time or Excuse for Stagnation
The activity and energy level at NCI, as I've found over the past month, is astounding. Each week brings a significant event or announcement that has transformational potential. Take the recent announcements of awards to fund components of the NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer and the Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer centers: initiatives that could have wide-ranging effects for cancer patients and those at risk of cancer.
- 10/18/2005 - Integrating Nanotechnology in Cancer Research
During the last few weeks we announced funding for three major components of the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer. These awards, which represent key milestones in NCI's Cancer Nanotechnology Plan, reflect the product of intense community planning and a long-term commitment to employ nanotechnology as a transformational force in cancer research.
- 10/11/2005 - Sustaining the Momentum
As many readers of the NCI Cancer Bulletin now know, I was recently named by Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt to oversee day-to-day operations of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) while Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach serves as interim commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- 10/04/2005 - Even with Changes, NCI Always Moving Forward
Last week brought with it an important change at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), with my appointment as interim commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by President Bush. And as I said at the time, I will maintain my position as NCI director and my ultimate commitment to the 2015 goal.
- 09/27/2005 - The Center for Cancer Research: Finding Opportunities, Facing Challenges
In 2001, the NCI intramural Divisions of Basic Sciences and Clinical Sciences were merged to form the Center for Cancer Research (CCR). This reengineering was fueled by the rapid pace of biotechnology advancement and the growing need for multidisciplinary approaches to the complex scientific problems NCI researchers are increasingly tackling. CCR's mission is to reduce the burden of cancer through exploration, discovery, and translation. This integrated structure is intended to promote rapid bench-to-bedside translation of promising cancer therapies. In turn, results from the clinic are informing the work of laboratory investigators to further refine therapies. In CCR, we value high-quality investigator-initiated research but we are also challenging the customary ways of thinking and organizing, fostering cross-disciplinary and multi-institutional research to solve complex problems in cancer research.
- 09/20/2005 - A Catalyst for Change
We have learned a great many things about cancer prevention and control over the past three decades. One of the most definitive messages we have been able to deliver is: Routine mammograms can detect breast cancers at a treatable stage and save lives.
- 09/13/2005 - For More Than 20 Years, CCOPs Define Commitment, Success
There are many examples of successful National Cancer Institute (NCI) programs that span every part of our research enterprise. With this special issue of the NCI Cancer Bulletin, we are honoring a program that has come to represent the very definition of success: the Community Clinical Oncology Program (CCOP).
- 09/06/2005 - CRCHD: Building on a Solid Foundation for Success
As we enter the final stretch of 2005, a glance back at the past 8 months offers a powerful reminder that NCI is an organization of constant innovation and change. Whether it's the proteomics and nanotechnology initiatives, or early efforts to characterize the human cancer genome, the NCI machinery is always pulsing at near breakneck pace.
- 08/16/2005 - An Important Moment in the Battle Against Lung Cancer
In our daily efforts to understand and deal with the mysteries of cancer, there are moments that remind us of the urgency of the problem. The recent death of ABC News anchor Peter Jennings from lung cancer and the diagnosis of Dana Reeve, widow of actor Christopher Reeve, with the same disease have brought renewed public attention to the cruel reality that lung cancer kills 160,000 of our friends and family members each year. They remind us of the damage done by smoking, but also that the problem is more complex, and that smoking is not the sole cause of lung cancer. In addition to prevention, we must also urgently address earlier detection and better treatment.
- 08/09/2005 - Creating Networks to Foster Progress
I recently wrote a column for a European news syndicate about our 2015 goal and NCI's global outreach. As I stated in the column, eliminating cancer as a cause of suffering and death is something that will involve a global effort from all disciplines and backgrounds working toward this common goal. Cancer is a global problem, and although its solution will involve a global effort, NCI has an opportunity to spearhead this effort.
- 08/02/2005 - Nanotech and Proteomics Fuel Expanded Communication
As the recent special issue of the NCI Cancer Bulletin on communication highlighted, NCI and the cancer community have embraced technology as a means of facilitating communication among and between the cancer community and the public.
- 07/26/2005 - The Cancer Genome: An Important Project for a New Era
Why do colon polyps in some patients never amount to more than a benign nodule, while in other patients they progress to a mortal threat? Why do two patients with the "same" type and stage of breast cancer respond so differently to the same treatment? The answers lie in gaining a deeper understanding of the genetic differences between cancer types. Working with the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), NCI hopes to undertake a project to characterize the human cancer genome, which we believe will allow us to gain such an understanding and much more.
- 07/19/2005 - A Message from NCI Director Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach
In April, while testifying before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) asked me an important question: What would it take to accelerate by 5 years the achievement of the 2015 goal of eliminating the suffering and death due to cancer? I want to share the National Cancer Institute's response to Senator Specter so that the cancer community can better understand what we hope to achieve and how we hope to achieve it.
- 07/12/2005 - The Rewards and Challenges of Cancer Communication
At first glance, the phrase "cancer communication" seems deceptively simple. But when you consider the huge amount of information generated about the long list of malignancies that make up the singular term "cancer," and couple that with the size and diversity of the audience affected by cancer, it becomes quite complex.
- 07/05/2005 - Strengthening the Evidence Base for Quality Cancer Care
One of the most significant challenges in cancer research is connecting the discovery and development of proven cancer therapies with their optimal dissemination and implementation in general clinical practice. Research on cancer care delivery in the community, and the impact of that care on both patients' quality of life and survival, is a critical complement to randomized clinical trials. Evidence concerning delivery can tell us whether clinical trial findings are being applied appropriately in everyday practice and whether cancer patients are receiving the highest possible quality of care - from initial diagnosis through the end of life.
- 06/28/2005 - Protein Structures: A Key to Unknown Treasures
It took Dr. Max Perutz 22 years to determine the structure of hemoglobin, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962. Today, thanks to extraordinary technological advances, including advances in x-ray crystallography techniques initially developed by Dr. Perutz, some protein structures can now be determined in a matter of hours. And, as we are learning, this research is becoming an essential component of developing new cancer treatments.
- 06/21/2005 - A New Generation of Researchers for a New Kind of Research
Last week, while attending some events on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) campus, I saw the past, present, and future of cancer research. At the General Motors Cancer Research Annual Scientific Conference, I had the opportunity to hear talks by Nobel laureates and other icons of science about our remarkable progress against breast cancer and where research on prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of breast cancer is headed.
- 06/14/2005 - Prostate Cancer Research: A Model for Success
Men's Health Week, June 13-19, is a good time to celebrate the tremendous progress we've made against prostate cancer - the second leading cause of cancer death among men after lung cancer. Remarkably, more than 85 percent of all prostate cancer diagnoses now occur before the disease has spread. As a result, the relative 5- and 10-year survival rates for men diagnosed at this stage are 98 and 86 percent, respectively.
- 06/07/2005 - A New Era for Cancer Survivors
The closer we've scrutinized what it means to be a cancer survivor in the United States, the more we've learned about how remarkably complex and daunting an experience it can be. Our intensive study over the past decade has produced excellent data about the risk of second cancers and late effects of treatment, as well as cancer's impact on survivors' emotional and psychological well-being, their ability to maintain or get insurance, their function in the workplace, and even on their relationships with their families and friends.
- 05/31/2005 - Now More Than Ever: Positive Health Strategies Make a Difference
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported last week that in 2002 and 2003, the proportion of smokers between 18 and 24 years old had reached its lowest point since 1991. Overall, the agency reported, smoking rates are continuing to decline. This promising news comes on the heels of other recent research findings that are shedding further light on the extent to which lifestyle factors and choices affect cancer risk and outcomes.
- 05/24/2005 - Advocates: Helping to Forge a Path to 2015
We use the term "cancer community" because, perhaps unlike any other disease area, there is a vast collection of groups and individuals who play an essential role in the cancer research enterprise. In my time as director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), I've come to more fully appreciate the complexity, robustness, and diversity of this collective, especially with regard to the advocacy community and its remarkable success in advancing cancer research.
- 05/17/2005 - For Clinical Oncology, Not Just Evolution but a Revolution
As many of the impressive research findings presented at the ASCO annual meeting over the past 5 days demonstrate, we are now deftly applying all that we have learned about the complex biology and molecular underpinnings of cancer. New, targeted agents are showing success against a growing number of cancers, as are combinations of existing therapies with targeted agents and optimized use of standard therapies - all to the benefit of patients.
- 05/10/2005 - Women and Cancer: Celebrating Advances, Planning for Progress
Just 2 weeks ago we learned that two trials testing trastuzumab (Herceptin) against early-stage, HER2-positive breast cancer were being stopped early because the combination of trastuzumab and standard chemotherapy reduced cancer recurrence risk by more than half compared with chemotherapy alone.
- 05/03/2005 - Cancer Centers: Providing Leadership and New Opportunities
Yesterday marked the second annual retreat of National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center directors. The retreat provides a forum for NCI leaders to brief the directors on important NCI initiatives, and for an open and honest dialogue on the national cancer program.
- 04/26/2005 - Imaging: An Integral Tool on the Path to 2015
One of the biggest changes in biomedical research over the past decade is how we view the group of diseases collectively known as cancer. We are moving beyond the notion of cancer as a disease that affects a single tissue or organ; rather, we are increasingly viewing it as a disruption of molecular mechanisms. This is allowing us to make important strides toward more individualized and targeted interventions, based on factors such as genetic polymorphisms, aberrant signal transduction pathways, or how patients respond in real time to a particular therapy. Although there are a number of new tools that are aiding these shifts, imaging technologies in particular are playing a central role.
- 04/19/2005 - Electricity and Excitement at AACR
Intellectual electricity is always evident at the meetings of the American Association for Cancer Research, but at the annual meeting that began on Saturday in Anaheim, there was also an aura of anticipation. Repeatedly, presentations of progress in cancer research were linked to prospects for improved cancer solutions.
- 04/12/2005 - caBIG - Celebrating Successes, Looking Ahead
Today I was privileged to open the annual meeting of the cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid (caBIG), a remarkable initiative that is linking cancer communities with the information and tools they need.
- 04/05/2005 - The Global Impact of 2015
During a recent trip to Italy, I visited a university in the Calabria region, the Magna Graecia University in the city of Catanzaro. Italy, of course, is known for its rich history, beautiful architecture, and spectacular landscapes. But I came away from my visit even more impressed by this university's keen commitment to biomedical research and advanced technologies and their enthusiasm for the NCI goal to eliminate the suffering and death due to cancer.
- 03/29/2005 - Training Future Leaders, Ensuring Future Success
It's always rewarding to be recognized for a job well done, especially when you are so firmly committed to that job. So it's heartening to see that the National Cancer Institute's (NCI) campuses in Maryland have, for the third year in a row, been selected among the top institutions for postdoctoral life sciences researchers in the United States by readers of The Scientist magazine. The accolade is the result of voting by more than 3,500 postdoctoral fellows from the United States, Canada, and Europe based on criteria such as the value of the training they received, access to research equipment and library resources, and good mentoring relationships.
- 03/22/2005 - New Tools in the Fight Against Brain Tumors
This week's lead story discusses two studies that provide important advances in the treatment of glioblastoma, the most common form of brain tumor in adults. In one of the studies, the activation status of a specific gene is shown to correlate with response to the combination of temozolomide and radiotherapy.
- 03/15/2005 - Bringing Health and Hope to Us All
In this issue of the Bulletin, we celebrate the NCI Cancer Centers Program and the 60 institutions it currently funds. It's impossible to capture the program's history and spirit in 8 pages and a few thousand words, but I hope you'll come away understanding how important the Cancer Centers are in supporting NCI's mission.
- 03/08/2005 - Clinical Proteomics: Developing Standardized Tools for Cancer Research
Diagnosing cancer as early in its course as possible and developing targeted drugs for treatment result in better clinical outcomes for patients. However, the development of effective tools that enable early diagnosis and targeted therapies has been an elusive endgame. Using proteins as biomarkers has long been considered a promising clinical diagnostics approach for drug discovery and development. Some biomarkers, such as prostate-specific antigen, have been in use for many years. Many other potential biomarkers are being reported in the literature almost weekly, although few have been translated into the diagnostic arena.
- 03/01/2005 - Reaching Out to Minority Investigators at NCI
In 2000, Dr. Alexzander Asea was at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute when, with a colleague, he was the first to report that heat shock protein-70 (Hsp70), a well-known chaperone protein (a guardian of other proteins) could also act as a cytokine, helping trigger and orchestrate immune responses to, among other things, cancer cells. This and other heat shock proteins are now under intense investigation, including their potential as vehicles for delivering cancer vaccines. Dr. Asea, a native of Uganda, was able to make this discovery thanks in part to a grant he received from NCI's Comprehensive Minority Biomedical Branch (CMBB). The discovery, published in Nature Medicine, and subsequent publications enabled him to get his first NCI R01 grant, establishing him as an independently funded investigator and helping obtain a position as an assistant professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.
- 02/22/2005 - Health Information National Trends Survey Web Site Unveiled
At this time last year, we made public our dataset from the first-ever survey to collect nationally representative information on the American public's need for, access to, and use of cancer information. Since then, more than 100 researchers have delved into the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) to analyze how people use mass media, new media such as the Internet, and personal channels for health information purposes, and how the use of those communication channels may impact their knowledge and acceptance of healthy living guidelines.
- 02/15/2005 - CTWG to Unveil Draft Proposal and Invite Continuing Input at NCAB
The Clinical Trials Working Group (CTWG), a panel of 40 clinical trialists, advocates, and government representatives established in 2004 by NCI Director Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach to evaluate the national cancer clinical research enterprise, will report draft recommendations to the National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB) this week.
- 02/08/2005 - Looking Back on HHS-NCI Collaborations
When I came to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in January 2002, I was privileged to join a consortium of agencies guided by the dynamic leadership of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy G. Thompson. Secretary Thompson has supported NCI's strategic commitment to eliminate the suffering and death due to cancer and initiated steps that would enable us to accomplish this by 2015. Our shared vision also included the belief that the fruits of scientific progress must ultimately be spread beyond our nation's borders and benefit the entire world.
- 02/01/2005 - Pursuing the Promise of Biomarkers
In recent presentations about the great potential of cancer biomarkers and diagnostics, Nobel laureate Dr. Leland Hartwell has delivered a critical message. "I am optimistic that we have the knowledge, science, and technology to greatly improve outcomes for cancer in a relatively short timeframe," he said at last year's American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting. "But I am cautious because I don't know whether we have the ability to organize the effort."
- 01/25/2005 - Program Promotes Collaboration, Rapid Generation of New Interventions
At the recent joint retreat of some key NCI advisory boards and the NCI intramural program retreat, two themes emerged that go hand-in-hand with several high-priority NCI initiatives. First was the strongly voiced sentiment that, to make the sort of progress against cancer that we all believe is possible, extensive collaboration is required among researchers of all disciplines and between academia and industry. Second was the imperative of getting drugs and other interventions to patients much more quickly than we currently do.
- 01/18/2005 - Despite Challenges, A Commitment to Excellence
Speaking to a room of NCI researchers and investigators last week, NCI Deputy Director Dr. Alan Rabson reflected on his 50 years at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), all but the first year of which he has spent as an NCI employee. I've had the pleasure of working with this extraordinary man since my arrival at NCI, and over the past 3 years I have seen the skills, talent, and energy that have exemplified every moment of his long career. He is a role model of the true meaning of commitment and excellence, always putting NCI, its people, and its mission first.
- 01/11/2005 - NCI Leadership: A Model for Success
Last week in this space I provided a general overview of how we are recasting NCI's leadership structure, creating a management team headed by four deputy directors with whom I will work to guide NCI and the national cancer program through the exciting and demanding times ahead. This week I would like to provide a little more detail about NCI's leadership structure, to give further insight into how we make the decisions that will enable researchers to continue to make discoveries that are improving cancer patients' lives every day.
- 01/04/2005 - NCI Leadership: Building Upward, Moving Forward
When I arrived here in January 2002, I was privileged to join an organization with a long and distinguished history of achievement and a reputation for innovative leadership. What I have experienced during my first 3 years as Director has only increased my deep respect for all of the talented and dedicated staff at NCI and in the broader cancer community who are committed to the challenge of eliminating the suffering and death due to cancer. Each of us contributes in our own way to achieving this goal, and all of our efforts are necessary to ensure success.
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