NCAB Hears Reports From Action Plan on Breast Ca, AACR

March 1, 1995

WASHINGTON--At its most recent meeting, the National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB) heard a report on the activities and accomplishments of the National Action Plan on Breast Cancer (NAPBC), as well as reports from two groups concerned about cancer research funding and grant applications.

WASHINGTON--At its most recent meeting, the National Cancer AdvisoryBoard (NCAB) heard a report on the activities and accomplishmentsof the National Action Plan on Breast Cancer (NAPBC), as wellas reports from two groups concerned about cancer research fundingand grant applications.

Frances Visco, JD, president of the National Breast Cancer Coalitionand a member of the President's Cancer Panel, described the NAPBCas "a consumer-driven plan to bring together people fromfederal and state government, the pharmaceutical industry, academicmedicine, and survivors of breast cancer to decrease the incidenceof and death rate from breast cancer."

Priorities include identifying strategies to disseminate informationabout breast cancer via the information superhighway, ensuringconsumer input in the development of public health programs, expandingthe scope of biomedical and behavioral research related to breastcancer etiology, making clinical trials more widely available,and implementing a comprehensive plan to address the needs ofpeople carrying breast cancer susceptibility genes.

Susan Blumenthal, MD, MPA, deputy assistant secretary for women'shealth, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), said thatthe federal government has stepped up its activities in breastcancer; for example, the Food and Drug Administration has establishedstandards for mammography quality, and the Department of Defensehas awarded 430 breast cancer research grants, for a total of$200 million.

She said that HHS priorities include establishing more programsfor minority and poor women, increasing clinical research, establishingmore advocacy groups, and promoting education and disseminationof information about breast cancer.

A Warning About Downsizing

Edward Bresnick, MD, vice chancellor for research, Universityof Massachusetts Medical Center, and president of the AmericanAssociation for Cancer Research (AACR), told the board that theAACR's major goal is to "further cancer research throughcommunication, publications, and meetings."

He said that the AACR is especially interested in promoting translationalresearch--putting laboratory findings to use in the clinic--butwarned that funding cuts could jeopardize this work.

"The fundamental structure of our national cancer programis seriously threatened," Dr. Bresnick said. "Federalfunding is inadequate and will most likely get worse with governmentdownsizing. Already we have seen a significant downward trendin the number of grant proposals funded, and this has affectedour ability to attract and retain young researchers."

The Clinical Research Study Group (CRSG), whose charge is to addressfundamental issues in the review of clinical grant applications,has found a strong perception in the academic community that clinicalresearch grant applications fare less well than laboratory researchapplications, reported Paul Carbone, MD, director, Universityof Wisconsin Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Jeanne Ketley, PhD,chief, Physiological Sciences Review Section, NIH Division ofResearch Grants.

The CRSG representatives made a number of recommendations, includingestablishing improved review criteria, developing a means to collectand track data on research grant applications, and finding betterways to inform applicants about the reasons for the fate of theirapplications.

Farewell to Dr. Broder

In his last presentation to the NCAB, Samuel Broder, MD, 10thdirector of the NCI, said farewell to his NCAB colleagues, tellingthem that his as yet unnamed successor (see News in Brief below)will have a difficult time steering the NCI into the 21st century.

Several NCAB members gave testimonials to Dr. Broder's accomplishmentsand spoke about how much he will be missed.

Paul Calabresi, MD, professor of Medicine, Brown University, andformer NCAB chairman, said that Dr. Broder showed a tremendousamount of balance and a "magnificent" interest in translationalresearch.

"Dr. Broder has been a major advocate for cancer chemoprevention.Without him, we probably would not have had the tamoxifen trials,"he said.