House Hearings Focus on NIH Appropriations
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies held hearings relating to the NIH on April 21 and 22. The first day focused on NIH scientific research, and the second day highlighted NIH management. The principal witness for both hearings was NIH Director Dr. Elias Zerhouni.
In his opening testimony, Dr. Zerhouni spoke about the public health challenges facing the nation in the 21st century, which will drive NIH research priorities. He discussed the NIH roadmap initiatives and his plans for developing a national electronic clinical trials and research network that would eventually link community-based clinical systems with academic health centers throughout the country.
In addition to questions about topics that reflected members' individual interests - Duchenne muscular dystrophy, transient ischemic attacks, strokes, estrogen therapy, pancreatic cancer, and stem cell research - the hearing was characterized by questions and discussion about obesity and the need for a sound public health policy to promote healthy lifestyles. NCI's National 5 A Day for Better Health Program was cited as an example of a good public health initiative.
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) requested an update on the early detection and treatment of breast cancer. Dr. von Eschenbach described the latest methods to detect breast cancer, using nipple aspirants coupled with proteomics analysis to identify molecular signatures that will lead to the development of targeted therapies.
On the second day of hearings, Dr. Zerhouni, Dr. Allen Spiegel, director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and Dr. Story Landis, director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, described the rationale and streamlining of decision making at NIH and how science is managed within NIH's institutes and centers.
Several subcommittee members asked questions about cancer. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) expressed concern about the current level of funding for ovarian cancer research and SPOREs. Rep. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) mentioned long-term cancer survivors and praised the work of Dr. Julia Rowland, director of NCI's Office of Cancer Survivorship. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.) inquired about the amount of money NIH spends on projects that address health disparities and minority health issues and expressed interest in how much NCI is spending in these areas. NIH is currently working on responding to Rep. Jackson's request.