NCI and PanCAN Partner on Unique "Mapping" Project
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is teaming with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) to develop a national map that tracks all pancreatic cancer research and clinical trials. The mapping concept is intended to "connect the dots" between all those involved in pancreatic cancer research to speed the development of national strategies and leverage resources for pancreatic cancer research. The research map is a tool designed for the research community, and for organizations like PanCAN and the Lustgarten Foundation.
"By joining forces with the advocacy and research communities, the map will serve to integrate information on new research and discoveries," says NCI Director Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach. New discoveries in this area are desperately needed. Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death, with a median survival after diagnosis of only 6 months. Only 4 percent of patients survive for 5 years.
The map, explains PanCAN co-founder Paula Kim, will include both publicly and privately funded research and will be posted on a public Web site in November. "We see it as a really great tool that will help NCI, the advocacy community, and the entire research community zero in on how to move forward and make progress," she says. "This will be an especially good resource for young researchers, because they can see who is working in the areas in which they are interested and find people to collaborate with."
Dr. Tony Hollingsworth, who studies pancreatic cancer at the University of Nebraska as part of an NCI-funded Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) on gastrointestinal cancers, agrees that one of the project's key roles will be to promote collaboration. Often, Dr. Hollingsworth says, researchers may not know of other work in the field until it is published. "But publications often lag behind the science," he says. "So creating a resource that allows researchers to identify what is happening earlier may help expedite collaborative arrangements."
The map project comes at an opportune time, with interest in pancreatic cancer research beginning to surge, says Dr. Barbara Conley, of NCI's Medical Oncology Clinical Research Unit, who participated in the NCI Progress Review Group on pancreatic cancer. Funding for pancreatic cancer research increased three-fold between 1997 and 2003, she says. "I think it's a field that's blossoming," Dr. Conley says. "I have a lot of hope that we can make good progress over the next 5 years."
NCI has funded pancreatic cancer SPOREs, and further harbingers of progress came earlier this year with the publication of two studies that detailed genetically engineered mouse models of pancreatic cancer that closely mimicked the development of pancreatic cancer in humans (see Jan. 13 NCI Cancer Bulletin).
"NCI is pleased to partner with PanCAN, advocates, and the research community in this innovative project," said Ms. Cherie Nichols, director of NCI's Office of Science Planning and Assessment. "To increase research opportunities, it is important for all of us to have a greater understanding of the research portfolio and its potential."