NCAB Considers Expanded Intramural/ Extramural Collaborations
Leading National Cancer Institute (NCI) scientists briefed the National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB) last week on several innovative collaborations involving NCI-funded extramural researchers and NCI's intramural research program. With cancer research moving toward a more transdisciplinary, team approach, the briefing was an update on how NCI is advancing team science and serving as a venue to discuss expansion of collaboration between the intramural and extramural communities.
In particular, noted Dr. J. Carl Barrett, director of the NCI Center for Cancer Research (CCR), NCI leadership is looking to NCAB for guidance on leveraging the unique opportunities offered by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) clinical center.
Several of the collaborations between the NCI intramural and extramural community involve consortia, which can provide the large number of patients and investigational uniformity needed to answer some of the most difficult cancer research questions. The Molecular Neuro-Oncology Consortia, jointly led by NCI and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, for example, has launched the Glioma Molecular Diagnostic Initiative (GMDI). GMDI includes a retrospective study of approximately 300 glioma tumor specimens, and a 1,000- to 1,500-patient prospective study involving collaborative groups and select other institutions funded by the NCI Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program.
Through GMDI, vital clinical and molecular data collected through both studies will help produce a pathological classification system for gliomas that correlates strongly with disease outcome. New molecular targets for treatment will likely be identified. One probable result: clinicians will be able to make far more accurate prognoses and more informed decisions on treatment. One of the central components of GMDI, stressed Dr. Howard Fine, chief of the CCR Neuro-Oncology Branch, is "a publicly accessible database that will contain not only the data, but the analysis tools for all ends of the research spectrum, from sophisticated users...all the way to the clinician."
Another intramural/extramural collaboration highlighted during the meeting involved cancer imaging, including efforts between NCI, extramural research groups, and industry. During the board discussion that followed the presentations, several board members suggested that, because many centers don't have the resources to perform sophisticated imaging procedures or synthesize the agents used in the procedures, imaging could be an excellent candidate for collaborative research programs.
Imaging components of some clinical trials could be done at the clinical center, even on an outpatient basis, said Dr. Karen Antman, NCI deputy director of Clinical and Translational Sciences. Some of the NCI cooperative groups have had problems getting third-party payers to cover repetitive imaging for their studies, she noted. Patients from these trials could travel at no cost to the NIH clinical center to undergo specialized imaging procedures, Dr. Antman said. "This would work particularly well for evaluating new imaging techniques. For patients for whom the issue is multiple scans, once the optimum imaging schedule is determined, subsequent patients could receive those evaluations in the community."