WASHINGTON--The new director of the National Cancer Institute envisions the NCI as an institute focused on science, but with a responsibility toward the community to disseminate information and be involved in larger issues.
Speaking before the First National Congress on Cancer Survivorship, sponsored by the National Coaltion for Cancer Survivorship, Richard D. Klausner, MD, emphasized that the National Cancer Institute must first be an institution of science, whose work it is to create a new body of knowledge about the nature and prevention of cancer.
It is equally important, he insisted, that dedicated scientific inquiry be accompanied by the conviction that the benefits of research should accrue to everyone. "The activities of all of the stakeholders of the national cancer program must work together, each informing the other in an open atmosphere because our goals surely are shared; otherwise, none of us will succeed."
Dr. Klausner frequently returned to themes related to the need for openness and clear focus. The NCI's scientific mission should be "inquiry based on skepticism that is nevertheless open to new ideas no matter where they come from." He said that this inquiry should include academic- and community-based clinical research and the training of health-care providers in all aspects of cancer.
Oncology, he insisted should be transformed by the fusion of laboratory, clinical, and community-based research. The need, he argued, is to go beyond translational research in order to transform oncology by the science that underlies it.
An equally important challenge, Dr. Klausner added, is to deal with ignorance on more than one level--scientific ignorance that prevents us from knowing what to do about cancer and "all sorts of ignorance" that prevent us from acting on the knowledge that we do have.
- To confront these challenges, Dr. Klausner proposed the pursuit of four specific goals:
- To reform and re-form the institution itself.
- To communicate clearly the need for support for NCI.
- To partner NCI with other cancer organizations.
- To engage NCI in larger issues related to health-care reform.
The NCI is undergoing a change in its internal structure that will, as Dr. Klausner put it, mean no more "separate fiefdoms, no empires with their own agendas."