Report to the Nation, Nanotech Proposal Presented to BSA
During the June meeting of NCI's Board of Scientific Advisors (BSA), members got a snapshot of the past and a glimpse of the future. Members heard an in-depth presentation on the recently released Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, as well as a proposed strategic plan to develop and promote nanotechnology-based cancer research. Issues such as opportunities for cancer research in the NIH Roadmap initiative, legislative and congressional matters, grant payline and application trends, progress of the NCI clinical trials working group, and others were included on the agenda.
BSA's role is to provide scientific counsel related to NCI extramural programs. As part of its overall plan for the discovery, development, and delivery of advanced technologies, NCI presented a nanotechnology concept for review by BSA. The potential role of nanotechnology and nanoscience in accelerating progress in all areas of cancer diagnosis, treatment, and prevention was also highlighted in a presentation by Drs. Mauro Ferrari and Gregory Downing. The Board will meet on July 12 to finalize their review of this concept.
Report to the Nation: Proof of Progress
BSA members were enthusiastic about the Report to the Nation and, as reported in the June 8 NCI Cancer Bulletin, the finding that overall cancer incidence and mortality have decreased. BSA members encouraged NCI to increase efforts to disseminate key elements of the annual report to nonscientific audiences. One member commented that the report's release provides an important "teachable moment" for the cancer community, representing an opportunity to highlight the progress that has been and continues to be made against cancer.
Board members were particularly excited about the recent decrease in lung cancer mortality among women. Lung cancer is still the leading cause of cancer deaths and true breakthroughs in treatment have been limited, cautions Dr. Brenda K. Edwards, a senior author of the Report to the Nation, who made the BSA presentation.
"Seeing the decline in lung cancer death rates for women is an important statement that we can have an impact on cancer, for example, through reductions in smoking," says Dr. Edwards, associate director of the Surveillance Research Program in NCI's Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences. The findings, she adds, are the result of "changes in women's behavior that took place a long time ago, and efforts to prevent and control the use of tobacco must continue because it takes many years to see a benefit in cancer rates."
This year's Report to the Nation should again prove to be a useful tool for public health officials, researchers, and the advocacy community, Dr. Edwards notes. In addition to providing updates on the four most common cancers, this year's Report features information on less common cancers for five race and ethnic populations, as well as data on prognosis and survival associated with diagnosis at specific stages of disease. It also focused on another burgeoning area of interest and research: survivorship.
Viewed as a whole, the Report to the Nation provides an encouraging picture. "On balance," Dr. Edwards says, "when you look closely across all the specific cancer sites, the improvements in cancer rates and patient prognosis point to real advances in risk reduction, early detection, treatment, and medical management."