American Association for Cancer Research



                                                                                                    JULY 2010


Panel examines clinical trials, drug development and electronic health records

The National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB) recently convened for two days on the NIH campus to evaluate the direction of the national cancer program. Cooperative group clinical trials, intramural drug development, and electronic health records were among the items that dominated discussion. It was also the final meeting for Dr. John Niederhuber who concluded his four years of service as NCI director on July 13.

Dr. Niederhuber addressed the board about his hopes for the future of the institute and proposed new directions for its research programs, including a model for clinical research based on a single, national cooperative group clinical trial structure. He also identified key challenges that the incoming NCI director will face, including achieving a stable funding base, fostering innovation, and pursuing public-private partnerships, particularly around drug and technology development.

Following Dr. Niederhuber's presentation, the board focused its attention on NCI's response to the recent report released by the Institutes of Medicine (IOM) which recommended that NCI take urgent steps to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its Clinical Trials Cooperative Group Program. Overall, the IOM recommendations were well received by the board which pledged its continued vigilance as they are implemented. Many of the recommendations have already been undertaken by the NCI Operational Efficiency Working Group.

A presentation about the success of the new NCI Experimental Therapeutics Program (NExT) initiative was met with enthusiasm. NExT is the product of NCI's reorganization of its decentralized drug development programs into a single pipeline that covers target discovery through early stage clinical trials. It is seen as a vital resource for the extramural research community and an effective means for addressing drug development bottlenecks.

In the first 10 months, NExT has approved 25 projects, approximately evenly divided between discovery and development applications. It is estimated that NExT will work on 20-30 projects at any one time in order to maintain a robust pipeline without overextending NCI resources. It was noted, however, that even as NExT addresses important bottlenecks in drug discovery and development, others will arise soon, especially in the area of data storage and analysis.

Finally, the board was updated on NCI's efforts in bioinformatics and the institute's strategies to integrate cancer research into national health information technology efforts that are underway. The cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid (caBIG), a rapidly expanding virtual network that enables members of the cancer community to share data and knowledge, has already expanded to include 2,300 participants at more than 700 institutions and now involves 15 countries and 16 licensed support providers. NCI is also forging broad collaborations with stakeholders in the private and non-profit sectors to create oncology enhanced electronic health records using caHUB standards for interoperability as a source for research data.

The next meeting of the NCAB will be held from September 6-8, 2010


More from the July Edition of the AACR Cancer Policy Monitor: