139th National Cancer Advisory Board
(6) place more emphasis on developing treatments and translating discoveries in the area of blood cancers; (7) increase research in the area of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL); and (8) focus more on quality-of-life (QOL) issues for patients with breast cancer and accelerate the advances in breast cancer screening techniques. The Senate report also expressed concern about the NCI decision to cancel the Academic-Public-Private Partnership Program (AP4).
Next, Ms. Erickson reviewed the status of NIH reauthorization legislation. Two drafts of the bill written last year were never introduced, but there has been much discussion on a possible new draft. Discussion points were generated by the House Energy and Commerce Committee in several areas. In terms of authorization of appropriations, the Committee is discussing the authorization of an overall funding level for the NIH with a 5 percent increase. A Common Fund would be established as a permanent funding mechanism to encourage collaboration among the ICs and as a reflection of the growing trend toward interdisciplinary research. The set-aside amount for this fund would be capped at 5 percent of the NIH budget and would be administered through the Office of Program Analysis and Strategic Initiatives (OPASI), OD, NIH. Another area for discussion in the purported new draft bill was the need for periodic organizational review in which scientific and lay advisors and some Directors would review the structural design of the NIH and make recommendations about the optimal structure of the NIH. Ms. Erickson observed that this provision would replace the one in the previous draft bills calling for a mission-specific reorganization of the ICs. In other discussions, the OPASI would be the body with responsibility for analyzing activities across the NIH and the Director, NIH, would have additional authority, with OPASI guidance, to identify areas of research that were over- or underemphasized and make adjustments in the research portfolio. Ms. Erickson stated that no written document has yet been seen and there has been no opportunity for NCI input. She observed that, although the House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair has identified NIH reauthorization as a priority, there are limited days left in the legislative calendar for introduction of such a bill and Congressional action. In conclusion, Ms. Erickson noted that the number of areas covered in the House and Senate reports is an indication that the Congress is very much aware of the work of the NIH and the NCI and that they are responsive to feedback from advocacy groups and professional society representatives.
Questions and Answers
In response to a question from Ms. Lydia Ryan, Service Line Clinical Director, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, AFLAC Cancer Center, Ms. Erickson reviewed the prospects for passage of the FY 2007 appropriations bill before September 30, 2006, and noted that a continuing resolution would be needed to fund activities after that time if Congress does not act on the bill. Dr. Ralph Freedman, Professor, Department of Gynecologic Oncology, University of Texas, asked if Congress had given any indication of addressing the harmonization of federal laws that relate to human research. He observed that the lack of harmonization of federal codes that govern the FDA, Office of Health Research Policy (OHRP), and civil rights impedes the collection of tissues and data. He referred to the fact that questionnaires have been sent to investigators soliciting opinions, and he asked whether the information gathered as a result might eventually lead to legislative action. Ms. Erickson replied that she was not aware of any pending legislation but would check into the matter. Dr. Chabner expressed interest in hearing, at some point during the year, NCI’s plan for dealing with the SPORE and Cancer Centers programs in the current fiscal environment.
AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR CLINICAL ONCOLOGY REPORT—DR. GABRIEL N. HORTOBAGYI
Dr. Gabriel N. Hortobagyi, Professor and Chairperson, Department of Breast Medical Oncology, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO)