In order to keep its $90 million per year cancer research budget highly focused and not duplicative of government-sponsored efforts, the American Cancer Society (ACS) has announced a major restructuring of its research and professional training programs. The changes call for a new focus on beginning scientists and targeted research projects and an increased commitment to epidemiologic research, psychosocial, behavioral and health- care policy research, and cancer prevention--areas not currently being emphasized by other cancer research funding agencies.
The society's Board of Directors recently approved the restructuring, effective immediately.
The changes are the result of an extensive evaluation of the society's research and professional training activities. In 1994 the ACS appointed a Blue Ribbon Advisory Committee on Research and Medical Grants to conduct the review, in addition to examining the state of cancer research and health-care professional training nationwide and identifying gaps and opportunities that the society can fill.
The recommendations of the committee, which consisted of nonmedical and medical society volunteers with broad knowledge of both the organization and cancer, along with scientists and clinicians outside the ACS with expertise in cancer research, complement, but do not duplicate unnecessarily, other organizations' cancer research and training programs.
Funding of New Investigators Addressed
"One of the biggest gaps the Society's newly refocused research program now addresses is funding the work of beginning investigators. The future of cancer control lies with the next generation of researchers and teachers, the very people least likely to receive funding by other agencies," says John Laszlo, MD, national vice president for research for the society. "In order to continue the momentum of discoveries of past decades, and to provide the launching pad for future advances, the American Cancer Society believes it is vital to support beginning investigators and teachers to develop the necessary skills to continue exploring frontiers in cancer control," says Dr. Laszlo.
The new research program will attempt to seek out investigators in the first 8 years of their careers.
Another new focus for the society is promoting targeted research in areas of high priority and opportunity, which will help the ACS find answers quickly to highly selected questions. All research applications, including targeted research, will continue to be peer-reviewed.
Increased Emphasis on Psychosocial and Behavioral Research
"To fulfill unmet needs in cancer prevention and technology transfer over a range of cancer issues, the Society is increasing its emphasis on psychosocial, behavioral, and health care policy research," notes Dr. Laszlo. "As one of the first organizations to recognize the importance of psychosocial and behavioral research and to develop a specific program for funding this type of research, the Society continues to demonstrate its commitment to this area."
In addition to external funding, the society recently created a new intramural research unit to conduct psychosocial and behavioral research and help integrate findings into ACS programs aimed at cancer prevention, detection, and treatment.
"These exciting changes will reemphasize our commitment to research and put maximum resources where they will do the most good," says Dr. Laszlo.
The society will maintain the Institutional Research Grants program, which awards funds to institutions that, in turn, make awards to young investigators. The Research Development Program, which makes funds available for promising, cutting edge projects, will be renamed the Research Opportunity Fund to better reflect the goal of the program. "In these times of rapid change and great opportunity in biomedical research, the ability to fund potentially important, new pilot projects may create opportunities and rapid progress in new research areas," says Dr. Laszlo.
Other enhancements to the research program include consolidating personnel awards and focusing them on beginning investigators and encouraging outside collaborations to maximize the society's impact on cancer control.
Since 1946 the ACS has spent nearly $2 billion on cancer research.
Revised policies and application forms on diskette are available in grants offices of universities and institutions. For more information, call the ACS Office of Extramural Grants and Awards at 404-329-7558.