CCSG Guidelines to Build on Working Group Recommendations
During a Feb. 18 meeting of the National Cancer Advisory Board's (NCAB's) Subcommittee on Cancer Centers, National Cancer Institute (NCI) officials presented a status report on Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG) issues, including draft revisions to the CCSG guidelines. The report follows recommendations for improving the award mechanisms that fund NCI-designated cancer centers (P30 grants) and Specialized Programs of Research Excellence, or SPOREs, (P50 grants) developed by a subcommittee ad hoc working group. Dr. Karen Antman, on an intergovernmental personnel appointment to assist NCI in implementing the working group's recommendations, and Dr. Linda Weiss, chief of the NCI Cancer Centers Branch, gave the report.
As recommended, several operational changes are in the works to increase center leaders' involvement in strategic planning. The working group also recommended that cancer centers be used for piloting new research and dissemination programs, something that Dr. Antman stressed is already underway. More than 50 cancer centers, for example, are participating in the development of the cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid (caBIG) initiative, and many others have received U54 awards to form partnerships with institutions that serve a large minority population. In 2003, nearly $21 million in awards were made to cancer centers for innovative programs like these, she said.
A number of noteworthy changes to the CCSG guidelines are under consideration. As recommended by the working group, NCI intends to revise the guidelines to allow P30 funding for staff salary support for clinical investigators who actively engage in clinical trials. Several options also are under consideration for creating new categories to provide better geographic distribution of cancer centers, such as allowing two facilities that alone could not qualify for a P30 award to form an affiliation and jointly receive an award. The possibility of existing cancer centers developing formal affiliations with non-P30 institutions, particularly those in underserved areas, is also being considered.
"We're already being consulted regarding models that are similar..." to the latter option, Dr. Weiss said. "We're trying to establish criteria for those kinds of affiliations to assist in review." Both of these options are still evolving and will continue to be refined over the coming months, she added.
Another significant change recommended by the working group is eliminating site visits as part of the P30 application review. Such a revision would eliminate the need for site visits for some established centers, but it would also present some challenges, NCI staff said, including the need for careful and complete cancer center award applications and longer parent committee meetings.
All of these revisions will continue to be vetted internally at NCI and are tentatively scheduled for review at the next NCAB meeting. Implementation of the P30/P50 working group's recommendations on the SPORE guidelines will follow the CCSG revisions by a few months. The full report and recommendations are available at http://deainfo.nci.nih.gov/advisory/ncab/p30-p50/.