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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

Science Is a Winner Today – Visions and Priorities of the National Cancer Institute

Today, science is a clear winner with the re-election of President Obama. Among other good judgments on science, President Obama made a great choice in persuading a brilliant visionary and politically able scientist to run the National Cancer Institute – he is Dr. Harold Varmus, a prior winner of the Nobel Prize in medicine for breakthrough research findings on links between cancer and vaccines.

NCI has a broad vision for the future, and that vision will drive change. The broad vision is pasted below, and online here:

"I’d like to think we could improve the perception of the culture of science, by emphasizing some of the things we do at the NCI that reflect a strong commitment to collaboration… by enforcing the idea that we are sharing our data and our resources and promoting open access to published work.

– Harold E. Varmus, MD – July 27, 2011

Under his leadership, Dr. Varmus will guide the National Cancer Institute in leveraging its unique role in the National Cancer Program toward the following shared ambitions.

Provocative Questions – The Provocative Questions initiative seeks to answer some of the 24 intriguing questions posed in the initiative RFA by stimulating the research community to use laboratory, clinical, and population sciences in especially effective and imaginative ways that harness recent scientific advances and an increased understanding of the basis of cancer.

Molecularly-Informed Cancer Control – Incorporating molecular understanding of cancer into cancer control is seen as an opportunity to see a dramatic revolution in epidemiology by defining cancers by genetic subsets, and the NCI will work to incorporate this understanding broadly.

Global Health – The Institute seeks to more fully integrate research on cancer into this country’s global health initiatives, meaning not simply treating more people in poor countries for cancer, but also improving the traditional epidemiology by which researchers determine which cancers are most common in which countries, broadening the strategies for prevention in developing countries, and identifying opportunities and the means for affordable treatment.

Precision Medicine – Cancer constitutes a complex set of diseases, and providing the best available care for individual patients requires access to a great deal of information about each patient and the specific variation of cancer with which they are diagnosed. By funding and conducting research that leads to a more thorough understanding of the underlying mechanisms of disease and how these mechanisms function in a wide combination of situations, NCI’s partners working in clinical settings will have access to an even greater amount of information that they can begin to apply to clinical care.

Clinical Trials –The Institute is engaged in many efforts to improve the speed and efficiency of the design, launch, and conduct of clinical trials; incorporate innovative science and trial design into cancer clinical trials; improve prioritization, selection, support, and completion of clinical trials; and incentivize the participation of patients and physicians in clinical trials. Over the coming years, these efforts will inject a new kind of science into the way trials are done.

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