NCI to Fund More Extramural Investigations

April 1, 1996

BETHESDA, Md--The number one priority for the NCI is to use its new budget for fiscal 1996 to "maintain the engine of discovery," by increasing funding for extramural, investigator-initiated research, NCI director Richard D. Klausner said at a meeting of the National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB). The new $2.25 billion budget represents a 5.5% increase from 1995, he said.

BETHESDA, Md--The number one priority for the NCI is to use itsnew budget for fiscal 1996 to "maintain the engine of discovery,"by increasing funding for extramural, investigator-initiated research,NCI director Richard D. Klausner said at a meeting of the NationalCancer Advisory Board (NCAB). The new $2.25 billion budget representsa 5.5% increase from 1995, he said.

Dr. Klausner emphasized that investigator-initiated research hasbeen shown "again and again to be the most productive andto get us most graphically to our targets."

To foster this research, he intends to increase the "payline"(the percentage of applications approved for funding) for R01applicants from last year's level of 15% to 23% for 1996, andto allow proposals that just missed the payline to be reconsideredquickly rather than going through the lengthy process of resubmit-tingan amended proposal.

The accelerated executive review (AER) program will allow speedyreview of grants that were rejected initially but whose peer-reviewscore was within 4 percentage points of the 23% payline. Thus,grants ranked in the top 27% would be eligible for AER by providingdetailed answers to the reviewers' original concerns. Grants thatdeal with patient-oriented research will be eligible if they comewithin 10 points of the payline (ie, in the top 33%).

Attracting Young Researchers

Dr. Klausner's second major goal for the NCI is to deal with "thecritical issue of attracting young people at the earliest timesof their promising careers to consider a career in cancer research,whether they are MDs or PhDs, and, most importantly, to give themstable support that bridges that critical period of time whenthe researcher moves from a mentored laboratory position intoan independent position."

This goal will be accomplished in part through the new HowardTemin Extended Support Award, a series of awards that will provideup to $75,000 a year in salary for up to 5 years (the first 3years in a mentoring environment and years 4 and 5 in an independentresearch laboratory), as well as up to $50,000 a year for researchexpenses. Dr. Klausner expects to make the first 10 Temin awardsin April, 1997.

The third goal, Dr. Klausner said at the meeting, is to promotea healthy clinical research system, and one way to do this isto ensure that managed care plans will cover the patient carecost of conducting clinical trials.

Toward this end, Dr. Klausner is promoting clinical trials tothe managed care system. He also announced that the NCI has signedan innovative agreement with the Department of Defense (DOD) togive all participants in the DOD health-care system access toall NCI-sponsored cancer trials (see page 20 for a related storyon the agreement).

New Cancer Gene Discoveries

"In spite of the government furlough," Dr. Richard Klausnersaid at the NCAB meeting (see story above), "the businessof cancer discovery did not stop."

He said that two new tumor genes have been identified since thelast meeting: DPC4, the first specific tumor susceptibility geneassociated with pancreatic cancer, and FHIT (fragile site histaminetriad), a general cancer susceptibility gene.

FHIT appears to be abnormal or lost in the majority of lung cancers;in perhaps 50% of stomach, esophageal, and colon cancers; andin some breast cancers although the percentage is not known.