NCI Launches Nanotechnology Alliance
"Today we have the opportunity to renew our commitment to the conquest of cancer," said NCI Director Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach. "We're talking about an emerging field of great promise, and an old problem of great devastation that requires new hope."
"Representatives from cancer centers, industry, and federal agencies attended the discussion in person and via teleconference and webcast. Dr. Anna Barker, deputy director of NCI's Advanced Technologies and Strategic Partnerships, gave a brief overview of its components: funding research through three to five Centers of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence, as well as individual investigators; fostering multidisciplinary team assembly via interdisciplinary training; and establishing a Nanotechnology Characterization Laboratory at NCI's Frederick, Md., facility.
Dr. Richard Smalley, Nobel laureate, nanotechnology pioneer, and professor at Rice University, described nanotechnology in the context of patients. "The best answer to cancer is never to get it in the first place. But the next best answer is to find it when it first happens and be able to monitor month by month and see if treatment is making it better or worse," he said. "If we can do that, we can eliminate this disease…for the vast majority of humankind."
Dr. Mauro Ferrari, special expert to NCI on nanotechnology and a professor at Ohio State University, described nanoscale devices that are already being used in clinical applications. "If nanotechnology is fully integrated in the cancer enterprise, it can help deliver therapy, reduce side effects, and transform what is, in too many cases, an acute disease into a manageable disease," he said.
Dr. Samuel Wickline, professor at Washington University, relayed his experience in nanotechnology research, citing differences in the "languages" used by physical, biological, and clinical scientists, as well as in regulatory affairs, as barriers that will be overcome by the NCI Nanotech Alliance. Dr. Wickline is an NCI investigator establishing new nanoparticle-based imaging and anti-angiogenesis therapies that are in clinical development.
Dr. Janet Woodcock, acting deputy commissioner for operations of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), outlined the role that her agency will play in assessing the performance of nanotechnology devices. Continuing the discussion of nanotechnology safety and industrialization was Dr. Vicki Colvin, associate professor of chemistry and director of the Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology at Rice. Dr. Gregory Downing, director of the NCI Office of Technology and Industrial Relations, provided details about the Alliance, including background on how its blueprint - the Cancer Nanotechnology Plan - was developed.
The final panel member, Phillip Bond, under secretary of commerce for technology at the U.S. Department of Commerce, said, "I look forward to meeting the bold challenge that Dr. von Eschenbach has spelled out here to defeat cancer by 2015." He discussed how the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will work with the Alliance through shared facilities and collaboration on research, training, and program planning. "We salute NCI for their work here," he said, "and we look forward to the many benefits for the next generation."