Even with Changes, NCI Always Moving Forward
Last week brought with it an important change at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), with my appointment as interim commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by President Bush. And as I said at the time, I will maintain my position as NCI director and my ultimate commitment to the 2015 goal.
To ensure that the many ambitious initiatives and programs we have launched to reach that goal continue to progress, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt has asked Dr. John Niederhuber, who recently came to NCI as deputy director for translational and clinical sciences, to serve as the NCI chief operating officer to handle much of the institute's day-to-day management.
These changes come just as NCI releases the Report to the Nation, which contains excellent news: Death rates from cancer are continuing to fall, albeit modestly.
As this encouraging trend demonstrates, it has never been more important to ensure that NCI has stable leadership, and I'm confident that Dr. Niederhuber, in cooperation with the superb NCI senior leadership team, will ensure that our vital work continues unabated. Without minimizing the significance of any mortality decline, it is important to note that we are engaged in numerous initiatives and programs that I believe have the potential to deliver precipitous declines in death rates.
This potential is largely rooted in our investment in advanced technologies. Indeed, we have roared into the era of molecular oncology with a diverse array of technological tools - microarrays, proteomics, nanotechnology, and advanced imaging devices and agents, to name just a few - that are becoming bedrocks of the discovery-development-delivery continuum.
We have used this technology to advance our understanding of the role of genetics in cancer, as we move closer to a time when new drugs are developed concurrently with genetic tests that will greatly improve the likelihood of a given agent benefiting a particular patient. Proteomics holds the great promise of aiding the development of diagnostic tests that can catch cancers or recurrence at the earliest stages. Nanotechnology and advanced imaging devices are moving us toward novel ways for accurately delivering treatments and assessing in real time whether they are having their desired effect. And in the midst of all this is the continued development of the cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid, which promises to offer new, effective tools for conducing research, while fostering the movement toward team science.
Obviously, NCI is not the only player in these efforts, all of which make up a massive undertaking that involves thousands upon thousands of committed researchers, advocates, policy makers, and, clearly, regulatory bodies like FDA.
While their missions may differ somewhat, NCI and FDA, along with the other government health agencies, share a common goal of improving public health. I am committed to leading FDA through this time of transition and fulfilling my responsibilities to NCI.
Change is never easy, but with good people and a dedication to success, I have no doubt we can come through it for the better.
Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach