NCI Re-engineering Intramural Research Program
A strong basic science foundation coupled closely with innovative technology development, outstanding clinical investigators, and population scientists afford NCI's Intramural Research Program (IRP) a unique opportunity to help achieve NCI's challenge goal of eliminating the suffering and death due to cancer by 2015. Encompassing the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (DCEG) and the Center for Cancer Research (CCR), the IRP is uniquely positioned to create a premier center of cancer research that can pioneer novel approaches to translational and clinical research through its interdisciplinary research strengths and that can provide outstanding training in basic, clinical, epidemiologic, and translational research.
To enhance the scientific environment so it nurtures innovative, high-risk, and long-term basic, clinical, and population-based research with an emphasis on translational initiatives that bridge all approaches, the IRP is engaging in a "re-engineering" process. This re-engineering process builds on the critical core of investigators dedicated solely to basic, clinical, and epidemiologic research, while enhancing and accelerating work for those engaged in interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary translational research.
According to Dr. J. Carl Barrett, director of CCR, re-engineering capitalizes on "the recognized areas of research excellence in the IRP and provides the foundation upon which NCI can establish a leadership role in multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary translational research." This theme is underscored by Dr. Joseph F. Fraumeni, Jr., director of DCEG, who indicated that "the IRP will take advantage of its concentration of cancer epidemiologists, biologists, and clinicians to form transdisciplinary research teams that can quickly and efficiently translate discoveries in basic science into medical and public health strategies aimed at cancer prevention, detection, and treatment."
Although the traditional administrative organization of the IRP remains, cross-organizational faculties and working groups now provide a forum where scientists from diverse backgrounds can work cooperatively in a particular discipline, disease, or approach to scientific discovery. The re-engineering is creating "an IRP without walls, that fosters the exchange of ideas among intramural Dr. J. Carl Barrett Director, Center for Cancer Research and extramural scientists and clinicians," according to Dr. Barrett.
"Re-engineering the IRP is an ongoing process designed to create effective interactions among its scientists as well as with investigators in the extramural divisions, in other NIH institutes, academic institutions, and industry," said Dr. Barrett. According to Dr. Fraumeni, "NCI is well positioned as a national agency to accelerate progress through strategic partnerships between intramural and extramural scientists that integrate population and clinical sciences with the tools of genomics and other emerging technologies."
Other initiatives also contribute to the enhanced collaboration encouraged by re-engineering. A total of four Centers of Excellence in advanced biomedical technology, molecular epidemiology, immunology, and molecular oncology have been established to support basic and translational research to reach the 2015 challenge goal. Additionally, the intramural clinical research program has been enhanced by establishment of the Medical Oncology Clinical Research Unit (MOCRU), a trans-organizational structure that provides investigators throughout NCI with centralized access to clinical research expertise and medical oncology resources. MOCRU acts as a clinical partner to intramural investigators, promoting translation of laboratory discoveries into the clinical setting and establishing standards of excellence for clinical research and patient care. Intramural clinical studies continue to be based on innovative, concept-based clinical research trials applicable to the treatment of many cancer types and have an emphasis on rapid translation of basic research discoveries to clinical applications.
Cross-disciplinary training and enhanced communication are critical to the re-engineering process. The IRP provides traditional basic, clinical, and epidemiologic research training, but also training in interdisciplinary and translational research to help prepare the next generation of national leaders in cancer research. The IRP provides trainees with access to novel approaches and cutting-edge technologies (e.g., imaging, nanotechnology, and computational biology) and encourages trainees to have multiple mentors with expertise in diverse fields of study. NCI's educational objectives are achieved through numerous activities designed to increase interactions with the extramural community and assist scientists in achieving career goals. Activities include partnerships, courses and workshops, fellowship programs with special emphasis, and career development activities.
The re-engineered IRP will reward investigators for their scientific creativity, collaborative interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research, willingness to take risks, and efforts to try novel research approaches. Programs that cut across labs, branches, and divisions are of immense value to the IRP and are important for scientific progress.