BETHESDA, MarylandCalling his initial months as director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) "absolutely exhilarating," Andrew C. von Eschen-bach, MD, described three interrelated themes that will guide his leadership of the Institute. The three, he said at a meeting of the National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB), are patient centricity, a more active leadership by NCI in the National Cancer Program, and collaborations and partnerships beyond the Institute’s usual sphere of activities.
"Simplistically stated, everything we do and consider is patient centered," Dr. von Eschenbach said. "The mission of the NCI is to eliminate the suffering and deaths from cancer. When we look at the incredible complexity of our agenda and the tremendous diversity of its components, it is extremely important that we look at all of them as means to the elimination of the disease."
The NCI needs to maintain a balanced research portfolio that adequately encompasses the discovery, development, and delivery to patients of new prevention strategies, diagnostic tools, and interventions, he said. "Some parts of the portfolio, we must take absolute responsibility for. Other parts, particularly with regard to assuring delivery of state-of-the-art care to all who need it, will require partnerships and collaborations," he said.
The diverse nature of the National Cancer Program, the number of organizations within it that are pursuing solutions to the disease, and the problems that such a diffuse effort creates extend far beyond the NCI and the research that it funds, Dr. von Eschenbach noted. "But NCI must be at the center of the National Cancer Program, providing the coordinating and integrating leadership that is necessary to bring all of these components together for an effective outcome," he added.
The three themes have shaped and molded his early tenure at NCI, Dr. von Eschenbach said. "They will continue to serve as guideposts as we move forward," he noted.
The NCI director also touched on several recent developments at the Institute during his report to the NCAB.
In the appointment of Elias A. Zerhoundi, MD, as director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Dr. von Eschenbach said he has found a philosophical partner. "The new NIH chief is also proactively pro patient and emphasizes the importance of collaborations outside of the NIH," he said.