NCI and Medical Decision Making
As the federal agency that supports the nation’s cancer research enterprise, NCI conducts and facilitates basic and translational research that can inform standard clinical practice and medical decision making.
NCI is also charged with collecting and disseminating state-of-the-art information on cancer and cancer-related care. It does this through several mechanisms, most notably the Physician Data Query (PDQ®), NCI's comprehensive collection of cancer information. For PDQ, NCI regularly convenes six editorial boards to develop evidence-based, peer-reviewed information summaries (for both patients and health professionals) on a wide range of cancer-related topics. These summaries are assessments of evidence for the use of cancer-related interventions (such as methods for cancer screening or treatment) and are not clinical guidelines or medical recommendations. However, the information in the summaries is publicly available and may be used by organizations that develop practice guidelines and recommendations for physicians and other health professionals, as well as for patients.
Other federal agencies develop medical recommendations for cancer, often using NCI’s research.
- The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality convenes the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), an independent panel of non-federal experts in evidence-based medicine, to conduct systematic evidence reviews of a broad range of clinical preventive health care services (such as screening, counseling, and preventive medications) and to develop recommendations for primary care clinicians and health systems. These recommendations are published in the form of “Recommendation Statements.”
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) produces Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, which is the agency’s vehicle for scientific publication of public health information and recommendations.
Many private-sector organizations, such as specialty societies and cancer-specific groups, build upon NCI’s research and the work of these other agencies in the Department of Health and Human Services to develop guidelines or recommendations about all aspects of medical practice related to cancer care—from prevention, to treatment, to supportive care.