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Accelerating Progress: NCI Annual Plan and Budget Proposal for FY 2022

, by L. Michelle Bennett, Ph.D.

L. Michelle Bennett, Ph.D.

Director, NCI Center for Research Strategy

In early September, NCI released the Annual Plan and Budget Proposal for Fiscal Year 2022. Below, Dr. L. Michelle Bennett discusses priorities from the plan that are especially relevant to current and future NCI-funded researchers, including the goal of achieving the 15th percentile by FY 2025.

We are on the threshold of the 50th anniversary of the National Cancer Act of 1971, which gave NCI the authority to submit—directly to the President and thereafter to Congress—a budget proposal that reflects NCI’s best professional judgment for the National Cancer Program. This is an awesome responsibility and a unique opportunity to place before the nation NCI’s Fiscal Year 2022 Annual Plan and Budget Proposal

The annual plan communicates to the American public the accomplishments made possible by past investments in cancer research, as well as aspirations for new discoveries and the ability to translate these discoveries to prevent cancer, treat patients with cancer, and help cancer survivors. In this budget proposal, NCI communicates the funding needed to make the most rapid progress in cancer research. 

We know that further progress in cancer requires robust and sustained investment across the cancer research continuum, from basic science to cancer survivorship. The FY 2022 Annual Plan highlights four compelling areas of scientific opportunity:  cancer drug resistance, molecular diagnostics for cancer treatment, obesity and cancer, and cancer survivorship. Catalyzing research with additional funding for these areas offers the potential to help alleviate the cancer burden across the country and around the world.

Perhaps the best evidence of the boundless opportunities in cancer research is the dramatic increase in R01 applications NCI received during the past several years. Research project grants, such as R01s, are the source of some of the most innovative ideas in cancer research. To respond to this burst of innovation, this year’s budget request includes a proposal to increase the payline for R01 applications by one percentile per year, with the goal of achieving the 15th percentile by FY 2025.  

NCI Research Project Grants and Funding and R01 Paylines

Numbers are important. But NCI’s scientific strategy and planning is also deeply influenced by those affected by cancer—patients, survivors, and their families and loved ones. And that’s why this year, as we outline our strategic research priorities, the annual plan also shares patient stories that NCI keeps close to heart.  

One story introduces you to Maria, from Florida, who has a rare genetic syndrome that increases her risk of cancer. Through an NCI clinical trial, Maria was successfully treated with a bone marrow transplant. Maria thoughtfully describes how recovering from her transplant prepared her for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of course, research achievements are only possible with continued, sustained support for a diverse cancer workforce. One example of NCI’s investment in early career researchers is the story of Jelani Zarif, Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins University. Jelani is dedicating his career to developing better therapies for patients with prostate cancer. NCI funds many talented and committed researchers from a broad spectrum of universities and institutions focused on addressing the most complex cancer challenges.

With this overview, I encourage you to read this plan and share it with colleagues, friends, and others who may find it useful. Together, through collaboration, technology innovation, and training, sustained NCI research funding will assure continued cancer research progress—now and into the future.  

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