Cancer Center Directors Helping to Chart Path to 2015
Last week, I was in Dallas with the National Cancer Institute's (NCI) senior leadership team to host a retreat of the directors of all NCI-designated Cancer Centers. This was the third such retreat and, as with the first two, its goal was to encourage frank discussions and gain honest input from the directors on some of the most pressing issues facing NCI.
The directors recognize the essential role the Cancer Centers must play if we are to eliminate the suffering and death due to cancer. However, there were concerns among many that the timeline is too ambitious. At the same time, they recognized the substantial opportunities for real progress in the years ahead and were supportive of working with NCI leadership to establish intermediate milestones for reaching the 2015 goal.
To this end, a small group of directors, led by Dr. John Mendelsohn from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, will be convened to develop ways in which the Centers will advance the translation of past and future discoveries in molecular medicine into standards of practice within the local and regional communities they serve so well. The group will report their recommendations on 2015 and a game plan to achieve them at the next Center Directors' retreat, scheduled for May 2006.
The Center Directors received updates on current NCI operations and priorities, including a presentation on management of the institute while I serve as Acting FDA Commissioner. Drs. John Niederhuber, Anna Barker, and Mark Clanton all discussed their roles during this interim period, and I believe the discussion provided a strong measure of reassurance that we are committed to continuity in leadership at NCI during this period.
The retreat also included an in-depth analysis of NCI's fiscal year 2006 projected budget. This presentation set the stage for a constructive discussion about how Center Directors can provide input into the formulation of NCI's scientific priorities - an important contribution during a time of increasing financial constraints.
We were fortunate to have Dr. Anthony Hayward of the National Center for Research Resources in attendance to answer questions about NIH's new Clinical & Translational Science Awards program. With the expanding importance of team science in conducting cutting-edge cancer research, this program provides an excellent opportunity for Cancer Centers to obtain substantial research funding to partner with multidisciplinary teams within and outside of their respective institutions.
The Center Directors' collective experience and unabated commitment to their institutions, as well as to quality research and patient care, makes this retreat an invaluable planning tool. I know I speak for the entire senior leadership team when I say we are fortunate to have access to such a talented group of individuals. It's their dedication, and the commitment to excellence they have imbued in the staff at their respective centers, that makes 2015 an attainable goal.
Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach