A Vital Connection to the Cancer Community
One of the most effective ways in which NCI interacts with the cancer community is through our advisory boards. Next week, for instance, the National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB) will meet for the third time this year. Among the advisory boards and committees to NCI, the NCAB plays a unique role. The NCAB advises both NCI leadership and the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services with regard to the Institute's strategic plan and its intramural and extramural research activities. The committee's 18 members are appointed by the President.
The NCAB also is distinct from other NCI advisory boards in that it provides secondary peer review of all grant applications to NCI over $50,000. This is a critical responsibility that ensures the NCAB is an active participant in guiding the direction of cancer research.
The NCAB's close affiliation with the President's Cancer Panel (PCP) also sets it apart. In fact, PCP members attend every NCAB meeting, typically providing an update on the panel's activities, but also often engaging in the board's discussions.
Although the NCAB is one small group of individuals, through its standing and ad hoc subcommittees and work groups, it can tap into experts in every aspect of cancer research and treatment, which significantly expands its ability to thoroughly address the issues brought before it. When a subcommittee makes recommendations (which must first be accepted by the full NCAB), the result can often be immediate and lasting. For example, in February 2003, an NCAB ad hoc working group that examined the award mechanisms for funding cancer centers (P30) and Specialized Programs of Research Excellence, or SPOREs (P50) issued an excellent report that included a number of recommendations NCI is acting on, including using cancer centers to pilot new research and dissemination programs, such as the cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid (caBIG).
Under the thoughtful leadership of NCAB chair Dr. John Niederhuber, I am confident that the NCAB will continue to have a positive and lasting impact on NCI's activities and the course of cancer research and care. The commitment and expertise of the NCAB and the other NCI advisory boards are one reason that I am confident we can achieve the 2015 goal.
Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach