Panel Calls for Increased Emphasis on Translational Research
The President's Cancer Panel (PCP) released a new report last week calling for some far-reaching changes aimed at improving the translation of cancer research findings into new interventions and the delivery of those interventions to health care providers and patients.
The report includes 20 recommendations and identifies groups and organizations that should be involved in their development and implementation. The recommendations call for new ways to address patent and intellectual property issues that often prevent research on promising compounds or combinations of licensed drugs, increased support for the dissemination of information about and adoption of new interventions, and increased funding for team science and systemic changes that promote careers in translational research.
The latter issue was raised "over and over again" during the four hearings the PCP held on translational research, said the Panel's chairman, Dr. LaSalle Leffall, Jr. These aren't empty sentiments, Dr. Leffall told attendees last week at a conference on translational research training programs jointly sponsored by NCI and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. "The team science concept is permeating many institutions," he added.
Changes such as revamping the reward systems at academic medical centers, allowances by funding agencies for co-principal investigators, and allocating more resources to translational research all could make the research climate more amenable to team science, Dr. Leffall said.
NCI Director Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach noted that NCI has been working with NIH leadership to establish a co-principal investigator mechanism. "It's a work in progress," he said.
More than 80 people - clinical investigators, advocates, health insurance representatives, and many other stakeholders - testified during the PCP hearings. The testimony was the basis for the PCP's report, Translating Research into Care: Delivering on the Promise. Other recommendations from the report include:
The latter recommendation is aimed at kick-starting what has been a significant lag in the development and approval of new cancer drugs. Under the Orphan Drug Act, drugs for diseases that have fewer than 200,000 cases - which would include many cancer drugs - can be given an "orphan" designation, which provides additional benefits to the drugs' manufacturers, such as an extended period of exclusive marketing rights, tax credits, and grants to defray clinical trial costs.
The PCP called for an evaluation in 5 years of how effective programs and initiatives have been at accelerating "the translation of basic science discoveries into improved cancer prevention and care."
The report is available at http://pcp.cancer.gov.
By Carmen Phillips