American Cancer Society Restructures Research and Professional Training Programs

February 1, 1996
Volume 10, Issue 2

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.

In order to keep its $90 million per year cancer research budgethighly focused and not duplicative of government-sponsored efforts,the American Cancer Society (ACS) has announced a major restructuringof its research and professional training programs. The changescall for a new focus on beginning scientists and targeted researchprojects and an increased commitment to epidemiologic research,psychosocial, behavioral and health- care policy research, andcancer prevention--areas not currently being emphasized by othercancer 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'sresearch and professional training activities. In 1994 the ACSappointed a Blue Ribbon Advisory Committee on Research and MedicalGrants to conduct the review, in addition to examining the stateof cancer research and health-care professional training nationwideand identifying gaps and opportunities that the society can fill.

The recommendations of the committee, which consisted of nonmedicaland medical society volunteers with broad knowledge of both theorganization and cancer, along with scientists and cliniciansoutside the ACS with expertise in cancer research, complement,but do not duplicate unnecessarily, other organizations' cancerresearch and training programs.

Funding of New Investigators Addressed

"One of the biggest gaps the Society's newly refocused researchprogram now addresses is funding the work of beginning investigators.The future of cancer control lies with the next generation ofresearchers and teachers, the very people least likely to receivefunding by other agencies," says John Laszlo, MD, nationalvice president for research for the society. "In order tocontinue the momentum of discoveries of past decades, and to providethe launching pad for future advances, the American Cancer Societybelieves it is vital to support beginning investigators and teachersto develop the necessary skills to continue exploring frontiersin cancer control," says Dr. Laszlo.

The new research program will attempt to seek out investigatorsin the first 8 years of their careers.

Another new focus for the society is promoting targeted researchin areas of high priority and opportunity, which will help theACS find answers quickly to highly selected questions. All researchapplications, including targeted research, will continue to bepeer-reviewed.

Increased Emphasis on Psychosocial and Behavioral Research

"To fulfill unmet needs in cancer prevention and technologytransfer over a range of cancer issues, the Society is increasingits emphasis on psychosocial, behavioral, and health care policyresearch," notes Dr. Laszlo. "As one of the first organizationsto recognize the importance of psychosocial and behavioral researchand 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 createda new intramural research unit to conduct psychosocial and behavioralresearch and help integrate findings into ACS programs aimed atcancer prevention, detection, and treatment.

"These exciting changes will reemphasize our commitment toresearch and put maximum resources where they will do the mostgood," says Dr. Laszlo.

The society will maintain the Institutional Research Grants program,which awards funds to institutions that, in turn, make awardsto young investigators. The Research Development Program, whichmakes funds available for promising, cutting edge projects, willbe renamed the Research Opportunity Fund to better reflect thegoal of the program. "In these times of rapid change andgreat opportunity in biomedical research, the ability to fundpotentially important, new pilot projects may create opportunitiesand rapid progress in new research areas," says Dr. Laszlo.

Other enhancements to the research program include consolidatingpersonnel awards and focusing them on beginning investigatorsand encouraging outside collaborations to maximize the society'simpact on cancer control.

Since 1946 the ACS has spent nearly $2 billion on cancer research.

Revised policies and application forms on diskette are availablein grants offices of universities and institutions. For more information,call the ACS Office of Extramural Grants and Awards at 404-329-7558.