The following is the third in a series of articles written by NCI scientists and directors on NCI’s Annual Plan and Budget Proposal for Fiscal Year 2017, which was submitted to the President on September 17, 2015. The proposal provides a vision General NCI key priorities and initiatives and the institute’s funding request for consideration by the President in formulating its own budget proposal for fiscal year 2017.
In this third article, Dr. Warren Kibbe, director of the Center for Biomedical Informatics and Information Technology, and Dr. Jeff Abrams, Acting Director of Clinical Research, Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis at NCI, will discuss the role of NCI in The direction of the National Cancer Program.
Networks, especially in the field of oncology, can mean many things. They can be connections between researchers or links of highly sophisticated computer equipment.
Whether it’s the independent researcher working late at night in his lab or a cutting-edge precision medical clinical study, many forms of oncology research rely on NCI’s programs and networks. And these programs and networks must be equipped to respond to changes in knowledge, technology and policy.
Scientist looks under a microscope
Cancer research relies on NCI-supported programs and networks that are equipped to respond to changes in knowledge, technology, and policy.
As outlined in the Annual Plan and Budget Proposal for fiscal year 2017, some of the key components of the infrastructure and programs that comprise the National Cancer Program are:
Sixty-nine cancer centers designated by the NCI throughout the country
The National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN) and the NCI Community Cancer Research Program (NCORP)
NCI-funded programs that empower the cancer research workforce and the workforce of the future today, and
A robust bioinformatics network
Although many of these programs operate behind the scenes, each of these components has a critical function, which is to provide a solid foundation for progress.
Oncology centers and clinical studies
Earlier this year, the Cancer Centers Program NCI – designated added his 69 to institution, and four other centers were named integral centers.
Many NCI-designated cancer centers host researchers working in the laboratory or clinic
Many NCI-designated cancer centers host researchers working in the laboratory or clinic-ordinarily in both-and make them important anchors of the nation’s cancer research programs. And most of the work is done in collaboration, often with researchers from NCI-designated cancer centers as well as smaller community hospitals and clinics. That is why, the Cancer Centers Program is essential to the success of the National Cancer Program.
Cancer centers designated by the NCI and many community hospitals in the country also participate in the network of institutions that comprise two of the major clinical research programs: NCTN and NCORP.
This network of 2,400 clinical sites covers most of the United States, ensuring that patients, no matter where they live, have access to studies that are evaluating the latest in prevention, early detection, treatment, and survival care.
NCTN was designed to respond quickly to new and emerging scientific opportunities. First among such opportunities are clinical trials of precision medicine – a new generation of clinical studies that focus on formulating molecularly targeted therapies that rely on the immune system.
Extension of data access
Sophisticated technologies are allowing the research community to capture more data than ever before. The Cancer Genome Atlas and TARGET – a TCGA-like program that focuses on childhood cancers, alone have produced nearly 5 petabytes of data. Expanding access to all these data will offer thousands of possibilities. It will provide a new insight into the biology of cancer, accelerate the creation of better computational and experimental models of disease, and directly improve patient care.
That’s why bioinformatics-the information technology used to collect, manage, analyze, and visualize biomedical research data-is an NCI priority.
Two of the institute’s top bioinformatics priorities are NCI’s Genomic Data Commons (GDC) and NCI’s Cancer Genomics Cloud Pilots. These are complementary programs that we believe will continue for a long time to extend access to the data produced by NCI-sponsored researchers working in the laboratory and clinic.
The GDC will store TCGA and TARGET data and facilitate the submission of individual research groups.
Cloud pilots, consisting of three different clouds, will be available in early 2016. Each will provide cloud infrastructure and analytics about the current TCGA dataset, and will allow researchers to analyze TCGA data using Computing that are embedded in the cloud or to deploy their own tools and algorithms in the cloud.
Cloud pilots will be a kind of test field, which will allow us to learn valuable lessons about the optimal design and functionality of a cloud infrastructure that contains huge amounts of data.
Fortification of the researcher’s channel
Of course, these programs and networks rely on a highly trained workforce to conduct day-to-day research that paves the way to progress.
In fiscal year 2014, NCI supported the training of more than 3600 researchers. This support includes programs and grants that provide training for students in high school, university and postgraduate schools, as well as for lecturers and scientists at the beginning of their careers.
At NCI, we have training programs that span the cancer continuum in our centers and divisions. They include basic science programs for high school students at the Center for Cancer Research and programs in epidemiology and biostatistics for postdoctoral clinical assistants in the Division of Epidemiology and Cancer Genetics. NCI funding provides support for similar programs at cancer centers in the country.
A firm commitment to continued progress
Continued support for the network of programs that serve as a foundation for the National Cancer Program is essential for progress. As we explained in the Annual Plan and Budget Proposal, and as many in the oncology community are aware, with essentially no-budget budgets in the last decade and with rising costs for conducting biomedical research, dollars available for research are short for Realize the full potential of the NCI research community to produce results for patients.
At NCI, we are committed to using our resources wisely to support the best science and the best scientists, and to organize and fund programs and networks that enable researchers to progress in their work and make progress to the extent possible with our resources.
We want to hear what you say about this important topic, and we encourage you to use the comments section below to share your thoughts. We also invite you to read the “Driving Discovery” section of the Annual Plan and Budget Proposal, which outlines the general programmatic approach and justification of funding, as well as the other articles in this series.
We invite you to participate in the two Google Hangouts, one scheduled for November 2 in the NCTN and clinical trials, and the other on Nov. 10 on NCI bioinformatics programs. You can get details about these events from the NCI social networking events page. Finally, be sure to watch social networking broadcasts for a video that will be presented shortly about how NCI programs drive the breakthroughs in cancer research. It will be a valuable educational tool for anyone interested in cancer and cancer research.