Over the past three decades, the National Cancer Institute has helped make tremendous strides in cancer research.
We now know more than ever about cancer, and are closer than ever to making cancer a disease people can live with--like
diabetes and heart disease. While we don't have a cure for all cancers, people who receive a cancer diagnosis have a
much better chance of living many years with the disease--thanks to oncology advances that have improved the way we
diagnose and treat cancer. Our investment of billions of dollars in cancer research over the years is paying dividends:
cancer research has led to a proliferation of powerful new drugs and imaging devices--and an overall increase in survival
rates. But a gap continues to exist between minority populations and the general population when it comes to cancer:
for communities of color, cancer remains a devastating killer--and we still have a lot of work to do to eliminate cancer
disparities. The cancer research community is working to attract more minorities to work at the research bench--and to
be a part of important advances that make their way to cancer patients. Dr. Sanya Springfield is chief of the National
Cancer Institute's Comprehensive Minority Biomedical Branch...
"The future of cancer research--if we are going to conquer this disease--will come down to how well we identify and
recruit talented researchers--no matter what their racial or ethnic background. This means we must be more active and
aggressive in providing opportunities for people from underrepresented minority communities to become part of the
cancer-biomedical-research enterprise. We cannot afford to limit ourselves in seeking out [the] research talent we
will need to achieve our goals to eliminate the suffering and death due to cancer. We're at a critical point in the
history of cancer research: we're closer than ever to solving cancer's mysteries--though we still have a long way to go.
In striving to contain cancer, the biomedical research community cannot overlook a potential goldmine of research talent;
we must tap into the entire talent pool. It could very well be that the next big breakthrough in cancer could come from a
research scientist who happens to be a member of an underrepresented minority population. When you cast your net wide, you
never know what discoveries and goals you will make a reality."
Approximately two- to three-percent of NCIís cancer researchers are african-american. The key--says Dr. Springfield--is
reaching out to minority scientists where they are--whether they're studying to enter the professional ranks, or are
working at the mid-career level as researchers...
"NCI's Comprehensive Minority Biomedical Branch follows two approaches to attract minority research talent to the cancer
research field: one approach is to work with minority-serving institutions--which include our historically black colleges
and universities, and our hispanic-serving institutions. Among our partners are: Meherry Medical College, Howard
University Cancer Center, Drew Medical School, and the University of Puerto Rico. We're working with these schools to
open doors for minorities who might be interested in careers in biomedical research. The other approach is to identify
and provide training and career-development opportunities in cancer research for minorities from underserved communities.
Our program for students [and] junior- and mid-career scientists is called the CURE--Continuing Umbrella of Research
Experiences. CURE allows us to fund long-term programs for underrepresented scientists who might otherwise be lost in
the biomedical system. We realize that today's pipeline to a competitive career in cancer research is a multi-year,
multi-institutional educational and research continuum, from high school to the first professional appointment. We
prepare researchers from these underserved communities to be competitive throughout this spectrum. Students [and]
junior- or mid-career professionals interested in exploring these opportunities can contact us at
minorityopportunities.nci.nih.gov--or call us at 301-496-7344."
From the National Institutes of Health, I'm Bill Schmalfeldt, in Bethesda, Maryland.