Research Advocacy at NCI

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I very much enjoyed and benefited from my interactions with advocacy groups—especially when they get together to argue for and think about common [cancer] causes.

Dr. Harold E. Varmus, Former NCI Director

Research advocates bring a unique viewpoint to the cancer research process, making scientific and medical advances more timely and effective for people living with cancer. As advocates participate in various NCI activities, they incorporate the collective patient perspective into the NCI research enterprise and serve as a reminder of the need for research focused on patient benefits and outcomes. Advocates also support the dissemination of scientific advances that lead to new and better methods to prevent, detect, and treat cancer.

Advocate Roles at NCI

Advocates bring a human face to cancer research that reinforces the need to accelerate progress. Their involvement provides NCI staff with critical feedback and insight. There are four primary ways advocates engage in the NCI research process:

Research Advocate Roles Infographic


Advocates develop recommendations and provide input on strategic directions or broad policy issues. Activities may include:

  • Participating on formal advisory boards
  • Speaking on panel discussions at scientific meetings or conferences


Advocates assist in developing or enhancing programs and activities. Their contributions often help in identifying barriers to implementation. Activities may include:

  • Working on NCI initiatives such as the National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN) or Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPOREs)
  • Partnering with NCI on clinical trial development and accrual


Advocates evaluate and analyze research proposals and ongoing research projects. Activities may include:

  • Participating in peer review panels
  • Editing or translating scientific language in documents to improve readability for non-scientific audiences


Advocates interpret and communicate research findings and scientific information for non-scientific audiences. Activities may include:

  • Using scientific content to develop materials explaining research findings to different cancer communities
  • Sharing NCI resources and publications through social media

Engaging in NCI Activities

The Office of Advocacy Relations (OAR) strives to connect the right advocate to the right activity so he or she can provide the most effective and meaningful contributions when working with NCI. Advocate participation is often requested for a wide range of activities, including peer review panels, advisory boards, educational materials review, and scientific steering committees. The two goals of the OAR matching process are:

  • Increasing opportunities for research advocates to provide input on NCI scientific research activities
  • Fostering an organizational atmosphere that values the perspectives and contributions of research advocates

Read our success stories to learn how advocates have engaged in the research process at NCI.