American Association for Cancer Research

AACR Cancer Policy Monitor

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December 2011


VARMUS UPDATES CANCER ADVISORY BOARD                                                   

 Director anticipates contentious budget year in FY2013

While addressing the NCI National Cancer Advisory Board on Dec. 6, the institute’s director, Harold Varmus, M.D., told board members to brace for a contentious budget year in fiscal year 2013, but added that the institute has at hand the resources to do “some important things” to make continued progress against cancer.

He reported that NIH and NCI staff are in the process of generating FY2013 budget proposals, which will be reviewed and approved by the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the Office of Management and Budget, before they become public on Feb. 7, when the administration officially releases the FY2013 budget proposal.

According to Varmus, each of the NIH institutes and centers has prepared three innovative proposals for the upcoming fiscal year to justify budget requests. These proposals will play a factor in the FY2013 budgets that are proposed for each of the individual NIH institutes and centers. This is a unique approach, as historically, the president’s budget has proposed nearly identical percentage increases for each entity. However, with increased scrutiny on how federal dollars are spent, administration officials are examining options for possibly proposing significant percentage variations across the institutes and centers.

Varmus indicated that the NCI bypass budget will be released in the next month or two. Conceding that the report is unlikely to alter the funding environment in any significant way, he noted that it will still be an important tool for educating the public and engaging support for cancer research.


NCI’s “Provocative Questions” Initiative

Varmus expressed enthusiasm about the way that the provocative questions initiative is progressing and said that 752 applications have been received in response to all 24 of the questions. Three of the 24 questions each received more than 50 applications, 150 of which were from new investigators. Varmus said that the review process for these applications will be complicated, but that NCI intends to apply a two-phase review system that will involve face-to-face review with several peer review panels.


Forthcoming NCI Workshop on Team Science

In an effort to explore new ways for pursuing team science, Varmus noted that NCI is planning to sponsor a workshop in 2013 to learn how other organizations and institutions have been successful in this area. He cited Stand Up To Cancer as a model for supporting multiple investigators at many different institutions and highlighted The Cancer Genome Atlas project as a great example of team science because its approach is more “this is ours,” as opposed to “this is mine.”


Proposal to Merge NCAB and BSA Meetings

Finally, Varmus floated a proposal to merge meetings of the NCAB with those of the NCI Board of Scientific Advisors, citing synergies that exist between the two bodies and the benefits of providing more opportunity for interaction.


Read more from the December Edition of the AACR Cancer Policy Monitor: