Partners and Collaborators
As the leader of the National Cancer Program, NCI is involved in many research-related collaborations and partnerships. These collaborative efforts are an important component of many NCI activities, including conducting clinical trials, providing education and training programs, and developing new medical devices and therapies.
Working with diverse partners allows NCI to engage in important research opportunities that otherwise might not be possible because of their complexity and cost, spurring innovation and ensuring the judicious use of public resources.
By bringing together leading experts and organizations on a broad spectrum of cancer-related activities, these partnerships and collaborations have helped, and will continue to help, reduce the cancer burden in the United States and well beyond its borders.
Other Federal Agencies
NCI collaborates with other institutes of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other federal agencies on a wide range of research programs and projects. Here are a few examples:
NCI and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke partner in operating The Brain Tumor Clinic at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. In this joint enterprise, NCI’s Neuro-Oncology Branch, which is part of the Center for Cancer Research, is the leader in developing and testing new therapies for brain cancer. The branch conducts basic research on brain cancers and leads early-stage clinical trials at the Clinical Center, with a focus on developing and testing targeted therapy and immunotherapy approaches for brain cancers.
NCI and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cosponsor the Regulatory Science Fellowship Program. This program is developing a cadre of scientists who have strong foundations in clinical research and research-related regulatory practices, with the goal of helping bridge the two disciplines and speed the development of FDA-regulated medical devices and cancer therapies.
After the passage of legislation in 2009 that gave the FDA authority to regulate cigarettes and other tobacco products, NCI and the FDA launched the Tobacco Regulatory Science Program. This program is helping to further develop the scientific evidence base needed for the FDA to effectively regulate the manufacture, marketing, and distribution of tobacco products.
NCI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regularly collaborate on cancer control research studies, including those on screening, smoking, and use of the human papillomavirus vaccine. Along with other partners, NCI and the CDC also recently published the first-ever comprehensive review of the global use of smokeless tobacco products.
NCI has signed memoranda of understanding with foreign governments to solidify ongoing collaborations with foreign scientists and provide a vehicle for short- and longer-term exchanges of clinicians and scientists engaged in cancer research. Indeed, one mission of NCI’s Center for Global Health (CGH) is to create sustainable international partnerships. For details about NCI’s global partnerships and collaborations, see the Global Health page.
Industry/Private Sector Organizations
NCI has a long history of partnering with private-sector life sciences companies. Often these collaborations support the development of new, innovative technologies or potential new therapies, including those for rare cancers, for which the private sector traditionally has been reluctant to allocate sufficient resources.
Staff from NCI’s Technology Transfer Center work closely with NIH investigators to negotiate agreements with outside parties, including universities and pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, to facilitate commercialization efforts to benefit public health.
One of the most enduring and successful mechanisms for promoting collaboration between NCI and the private sector is through Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs), a mechanism used throughout the federal government. Under a CRADA, NCI researchers and scientists from the partner organization conduct laboratory and early human studies needed to advance promising new technologies or therapeutics to late-stage studies.
CRADAs between NCI and private sector companies are increasingly used to develop targeted therapies and immunotherapy treatments for both pediatric and adult cancers. For example, through a CRADA with one small biotechnology company, NCI is leading the first trial of an immune-based treatment that will include patients with a rare cancer, called chordoma, for which there are few effective treatments.
The evolution of cancer care toward precision medicine, in which treatments are based on the molecular makeup of tumors rather than on their anatomic location in the body, will require complex clinical trial designs. NCI has developed partnerships with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to launch a series of precision medicine trials, some of which, like the MATCH trial, use both FDA-approved and investigational therapies from multiple companies—something that traditionally has been extremely difficult to do.
Through its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, NCI provides research and development support to small companies at strategic times during the development lifecycle of novel cancer-related biomedical products. Awards to companies through the SBIR/STTR programs support the development of new imaging technologies and diagnostic tests, research tools, and cancer therapies. These SBIR/STTR awards are often leveraged by small businesses to attract funding from larger firms and venture capital companies.
Research Centers/Oncology Care Providers
NCI has long collaborated with researchers at NCI-Designated Cancer Centers and international research centers, clinicians at community hospitals, and oncology practices to conduct research and advance patient care.
These collaborative efforts take many forms and span the cancer research continuum.
NCI regularly partners with researchers at large academic cancer centers in the United States and abroad on basic and clinical research, studies that have influenced both how cancer research is performed and the care delivered to patients.
NCI’s clinical trials programs, including the National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN) and NCI Community Oncology Research Program, involve intense collaboration between NCI, large academic medical centers, and many community hospitals and oncology practices across the country.
Collaboration is also at the heart of special programs dedicated to basic and population-based research. Some, like the Physical Sciences in Oncology Program and Integrative Cancer Biology Program, bring together researchers from different scientific disciplines to approach important cancer questions from different perspectives.
Through programs like the Cancer Care Outcomes Research and Surveillance Consortium (CanCORS) and the Cancer Research Network, NCI works with research groups affiliated with health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and investigators at institutions across the country to address critical issues such as the quality and delivery of screening, treatment, and end-of-life care.
Other collaborative programs provide critical research tools and resources, such as the Genomic Data Commons, or are focused on advancing specific areas of research, such as the Early Detection Research Network and Centers of Excellence in Cancer Communication Research.
NCI’s Physician Data Query® is a comprehensive resource for peer-reviewed, evidence-based information summaries on numerous cancer-related topics, such as cancer prevention, treatment, screening, and supportive care. These widely used summaries—most of which have versions for both health professionals and patients—are produced, maintained, and updated regularly by six editorial boards comprised of staff from NCI, other federal agencies, and experts from medical centers and community hospitals/practices across the country.
Cancer Research Societies
Professional medical societies provide ongoing educational and professional support for cancer researchers, clinical oncologists, and other health care professionals involved in research and patient care. NCI partners with many of these organizations to help their members and others in the cancer community stay abreast of the latest advances and to promote innovative research and quality patient care.
NCI regularly cosponsors conferences and workshops on a variety of research topics. For example, together with the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC), NCI sponsors the AACR-NCI-EORTC International Conference on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics, one of the largest annual meetings devoted to molecularly targeted therapies for cancer.
Scientific leaders from NCI have also joined with leaders from AACR, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, and the American Cancer Society to develop a blueprint that lays out the most pressing research needs that can help to address cancer health disparities, which continue to be a serious problem in the United States.
Since its launch in 2011, NCI’s Center for Global Health has been working closely with cancer organizations and health leaders from around the world to develop programs and policies to better address the growing global cancer burden. These efforts have included cosponsoring and organizing workshops with the Union for International Cancer Control on topics such as strengthening registries of pediatric cancer and making low-cost technologies for cancer screening and treatment available in remote areas of developing countries.
Advocates and advocacy organizations play an important role in cancer research, from raising awareness about the burden of cancer and the importance of cancer research to participating in the development of research studies and recruiting study participants. Via its Office of Advocacy Relations, NCI engages with advocates and advocacy organizations on these and other activities.
Through the NCI Council of Research Advocates (NCRA), which serves as the voice of the advocacy community at NCI, advocates participate in developing and designing research studies, including clinical trials; review proposals for research studies; and serve as advisors to NCI programs, including the NCTN and the Specialized Programs of Research Excellence.
NCI teams with advocates to host or participate in meetings intended to fuel progress in areas of need. For example, the NCRA hosted a meeting to bring together key stakeholders to discuss barriers and challenges in drug development for pediatric cancers, and NCI worked with advocacy organizations to send a group of advocate representatives to an important conference on survivorship research, allowing them to help set an agenda for future research.
With input and guidance from advocates, NCI regularly hosts webinars to help educate the larger advocacy community about NCI programs, new initiatives, and research advances. These programs can help the advocacy community become more engaged in the research process and become a more integral part of the effort to reduce the burden of cancer.
NCI also works with other research and public health advocacy organizations. For example, NCI and the Avon Foundation for Women cosponsored the Breast Cancer Startup Challenge in 2014, in which entrepreneurial teams submitted proposals to further develop and commercialize technologies that had been developed by NCI scientists or by researchers in Avon Foundation-funded labs. With their business plans in place, the winning teams are moving forward with their business start-up plans.