House Committee Convenes Hearing on NCI Research
The House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Health, held a hearing on March 23, “NCI Cancer Research: Today’s Progress, Tomorrow’s Challenges,” to discuss advances in cancer research and NCI’s research plans, with a focus on high mortality cancers with 5-year survival rates below 50 percent. NCI Deputy Director Dr. Anna Barker testified before the committee, and an additional panel of witnesses included advocates and an NCI-designated cancer center director.
Dr. Barker shared updates on a number of NCI strategic initiatives that are helping the cancer research community to better understand the biology of cancer and make progress toward targeted treatments. Her testimony focused on progress in molecular biology and advanced technologies, and she provided an overview of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA). TCGA is a collaboration between NCI and the National Human Genome Research Institute, and a program that was of particular interest to members of the subcommittee. Dr. Barker emphasized that the biggest challenge to expanding TCGA is obtaining high-quality biospecimens, and she stressed that advocates can play an important role in this effort, particularly for rare and lethal cancers.
TCGA aims to map the relevant genomic alterations in approximately 20 types of cancer over the next 5 years and has catalogued the genomes of three cancer types to date—lung, brain (glioblastoma), and ovarian cancers. These three cancer types are considered high mortality cancers, which were the focus of much of the testimony from the second panel at the hearing. While panelists recognized NCI’s commitment to high mortality cancers through TCGA, some also called upon NCI to make a larger investment in developing targeted treatments for these cancers.
The hearing was not called to address specific legislation, but members of the subcommittee and panelists referenced the possible introduction of a House companion bill to the Access to Life-Saving Early detection, Research and Treatment (ALERT) Act (S.717), originally introduced in the Senate by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA). The subcommittee expressed interest in having further conversations about next steps in cancer research as this process moves forward.
More information on the hearing, including a full list of witnesses and their statements, can be found on the committee Web site.
For more information about this and other NCI congressional activity, visit the NCI Office of Government and Congressional Relations Web site.