SPORE Program Key in NCI's Translational Research Review
At the National Cancer Advisory Board meeting in early June, NCI Director Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach announced the formation of the Translational Research Work Group (TRWG). The TRWG will follow the model set by the Clinical Trials Working Group, undertaking an open and inclusive approach to reviewing NCI's translational research portfolio and identifying ways to synergize, integrate, and coordinate efforts. The review will draw heavily upon the expertise and experience of members of the Institute's successful SPORE (Specialized Programs of Research Excellence) program, Dr. von Eschenbach told attendees at the SPORE annual investigators workshop on July 10.
"The TRWG, led by Dr. Ernie Hawk, will bring together members of the broader research community, including those participants in the SPORE program, to focus on the opportunities and changes that must occur in translational research at NCI," Dr. von Eschenbach explained. "By its very nature, the SPORE program will be a critically important part of that assessment process." However, Dr. von Eschenbach emphasized, the TRWG is not simply a review of SPORE: "The definition of translational research and the mandate of the working group are broad - to consider programs across the entire NCI portfolio, both extramural and intramural.
"The future will be framed by the fact that, during the lifetime of the SPORE program, we have gone through a metamorphosis from a macroscopic view of cancer to a molecular perspective," Dr. von Eschenbach continued. "The initiation of the era of molecular oncology has created a reality in which the future is not just an extrapolation of the past. We must create that new future - the opportunities for achieving the goal of eliminating the suffering and death due to cancer have never been greater."
Changes will result from that review process, the NCI Director acknowledged. "We're inviting you in the SPORE program and others in the research community to be part of the deliberation over the next year to help us define the future opportunities and direction of translational research."
The NCI leadership team is developing a funding plan for new and renewal SPORE applications for FY 2005 and FY 2006. As in past years, the plan is premised on peer assessments of scientific merit over 5-year project timelines. However, guaranteed funding will be for 3 years. This will allow NCI the flexibility to rapidly implement the TRWG's findings and recommendations.
"The history of SPORE is extraordinary and great," Dr. von Eschenbach affirmed. "What you have accomplished is in many ways beyond imagination. And yet I believe that the greatness of the SPORE program still lies ahead."