National Cancer Clinical Trials Cooperative Groups Announce Mergers
In separate announcements, several NCI-supported national cancer clinical trials cooperative groups declared their plans to merge. On March 7, the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG) and National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP) announced their plans to consolidate operations. Two days later, a merger was announced by the American College of Surgeons Oncology Group (ACOSOG), Cancer and Leukemia Group B (CALGB), and North Central Cancer Treatment Group (NCCTG).
The cooperative groups, which conduct clinical trials primarily in adult patients, are merging in response to the Institute of Medicine’s April 2010 report calling for restructuring and consolidation of NCI’s Clinical Trials Cooperative Group Program and NCI’s subsequent announcement of its plan to consolidate the program to a maximum of four adult groups (down from nine current groups) and one pediatric group.
The cooperative groups involved in the mergers indicated that they have already begun discussing the transition to consolidate their current operations. In fact, ACOSOG, CALGB, and NCCTG integrated their statistical, data management, and information technology platforms in June 2010.
On March 9, NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (DCEG) held a symposium entitled Research Strategies in Radiation and Cancer to honor Dr. Elaine Ron, a senior investigator in DCEG and a widely respected expert in the field of radiation epidemiology. Dr. Ron died of cancer on November 20, 2010. (See the In Memoriam note featured in the November 30 NCI Cancer Bulletin.)
A group of Dr. Ron’s collaborators and peers reflected on her important contributions to radiation epidemiology studies and emphasized her successful research strategies. Included were the Life Span Study, which followed survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, extensive collaborations with Ukrainian and Belarusian scientists tracking the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, a landmark pooled analysis examining radiation exposure and the risk of thyroid cancer, and an ongoing investigation evaluating cancer risk following childhood exposure to computed tomography scans.
Former and current DCEG research fellows spoke about the dedicated mentoring Dr. Ron provided throughout her career, which has greatly influenced a new generation of radiation epidemiologists.
Finally, DCEG investigators delivered presentations on “Evolving Research Strategies in Radiation,” which highlighted new directions in radiation epidemiology studies that are likely to accelerate progress in the field. Dr. Christopher Wild, director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer—where Dr. Ron served on the Scientific Council—spoke about “Two-Way Translational Research: From Basic Science to Both the Clinic and the Population,” with an emphasis on radiation-exposed populations.
“Elaine was an enormously gifted epidemiologist whose groundbreaking research has contributed so much to a better understanding of the risks of cancer associated with a wide variety of exposures to ionizing radiation,” said Dr. Joseph F. Fraumeni, Jr., director of DCEG.
NIH and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) recently published corresponding funding announcements to encourage and support research cooperation between U.S. and Chinese scientists studying cancer, allergy, immunology, and infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS and its comorbidities. NIH released an announcement for administrative supplements for U.S. investigators and NSFC published an announcement for new 1-year projects from Chinese collaborating investigators. This initiative is part of a U.S.-China Program for Biomedical Research Cooperation that was recently established by NIH and NSFC.
U.S. and Chinese collaborating investigators will work together to develop corresponding applications to NIH and NSFC. Applications will be reviewed in parallel by both agencies using similar selection factors, and funding decisions will be made by both agencies according to research priorities of both countries. NIH has pledged to support up to $3 million in FY 2011 under this program, whereas NSFC has indicated that approximately 300,000 renminbi (about $45,760) will be available per project to support Chinese collaborators.