NCI Testifies at House Appropriations Hearing
NCI Director Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach joined NIH Director Dr. Elias Zerhouni and other NIH institute directors in testifying at a March 9 hearing on the fiscal year 2006 NIH budget before the House Appropriations Subcommittee of the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. The Administration's budget request of $28.7 billion for NIH includes $4.8 billion for NCI, a $16.5 million increase over FY 2005.
In his statement to the Subcommittee, Dr. Zerhouni highlighted the progress being made in cancer research and in reducing the cancer disease burden. Dr. Zerhouni cited decreases in mortality for 8 of the 15 cancers that affect men and 7 of the 15 that affect women, with a 1.1 percent reduction in death rate, as evidence of the "deceleration of the burden of disease due to cancer."
Subcommittee Chairman Ralph Regula (R-Ohio) asked Dr. von Eschenbach about NCI's efforts to foster development of health information systems. The director provided the subcommittee with an update on the caBIG initiative. The goal is to "create a 'World Wide Web' for cancer research," Dr. von Eschenbach said. During the initial year of caBIG, he continued, NCI has worked with the nation's major cancer centers to develop an open electronic infrastructure to support research collaborations.
In his written testimony, Dr. von Eschenbach also noted that caBIG has begun to bear its first fruits with the release of NCI's caArray, "a prototype software application that is made freely available to facilitate the sharing and analysis of microarray data by the medical research community." NCI and its partners are also developing an online information infrastructure to support clinical trials management and electronic drug approval submissions to the FDA, he noted. "The first system module - the Federal Investigator Registry (Firebird) - starts pilot testing this spring."
Representative Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) asked about the progress being made on breast cancer early diagnosis and treatment. Dr. von Eschenbach outlined NCI's comprehensive research approach to the disease, including identification of biomarkers for early stage disease, the risks for relapse, and identifying best treatment approaches.
Representative Randy Cunningham (R-Calif.), a prostate cancer survivor, thanked Dr. von Eschenbach for conducting talks on prostate cancer in the San Diego and Washington, D.C., areas. Noting the high attendance at both meetings, Rep. Cunningham highlighted how communities collectively have expressed interest in learning about and discussing the disease.