Dr. Klausner Outlines Goals for NCI

Oncology NEWS International Vol 5 No 1, Volume 5, Issue 1

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.

WASHINGTON--The new director of the National Cancer Instituteenvisions the NCI as an institute focused on science, but witha responsibility toward the community to disseminate informationand be involved in larger issues.

Speaking before the First National Congress on Cancer Survivorship,sponsored by the National Coaltion for Cancer Survivorship, RichardD. Klausner, MD, emphasized that the National Cancer Institutemust first be an institution of science, whose work it is to createa new body of knowledge about the nature and prevention of cancer.

It is equally important, he insisted, that dedicated scientificinquiry be accompanied by the conviction that the benefits ofresearch should accrue to everyone. "The activities of allof the stakeholders of the national cancer program must work together,each informing the other in an open atmosphere because our goalssurely are shared; otherwise, none of us will succeed."

Dr. Klausner frequently returned to themes related to the needfor openness and clear focus. The NCI's scientific mission shouldbe "inquiry based on skepticism that is nevertheless opento new ideas no matter where they come from." He said thatthis inquiry should include academic- and community-based clinicalresearch and the training of health-care providers in all aspectsof cancer.

Oncology, he insisted should be transformed by the fusion of laboratory,clinical, and community-based research. The need, he argued, isto go beyond translational research in order to transform oncologyby the science that underlies it.

An equally important challenge, Dr. Klausner added, is to dealwith ignorance on more than one level--scientific ignorance thatprevents us from knowing what to do about cancer and "allsorts of ignorance" that prevent us from acting on the knowledgethat we do have.

  • To confront these challenges, Dr. Klausner proposed the pursuitof 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 thatwill, as Dr. Klausner put it, mean no more "separate fiefdoms,no empires with their own agendas."

Along with reorganization, he recommended changes in the decision-makingprocess. The Institute needs to be opened up, he suggested, withan expanded advisory and counseling system--a change that willdraw on the wisdom of the entire community.

In an era in which the legitimate role of government is beinghotly debated, the new director would have the American peopleunderstand that the NCI is a biomedical treasure--one that trulyrepresents the rightful role of government in promoting the publicgood.

He emphasized also the need to go to decision makers with clearpriorities when funding is requested. The American people shouldbe told clearly what they may reasonably expect as the resultof their investment.

Dr. Klausner announced that the NCI has greatly expanded its liaisonoffice in order to make available the resources of NCI to allgroups through all manner of information systems including Internetweb pages--whatever it takes to be, as he put it, "a convenerof groups." NCI should be involved in outreach in order toprovide, above all, a place where all interested parties can findhelp.

The director's final point was his assertion that the NCI needsto be engaged in larger issues related to research, especiallyhealth-care reform and insurance reform, and should be very clearabout what it is doing. The American people should understandwhat NCI is about, and there should be no secrets.