October 06, 2017

Cancer Research Coalition Briefed on Key Issues

The National Coalition on Cancer Research (NCCR) considered issues ranging from National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding to the challenges for cancer treatment progress at an Oct. 4 general membership meeting.

NCCR members — including a representative of the American College of Radiology — heard an upbeat report on NIH funding prospects. They learned there is strong bipartisan support for increases to NIH funding, likely to the tune of $2 billion, bringing totals to approximately $36 billion.

After the meeting, NCCR hosted a Cancer 101 briefing providing an update on the Cancer Moonshot initiative. The Moonshot was launched in 2016 under the leadership of former Vice President Joe Biden to make “ten years of cancer research in five years.” Panel member Douglas R. Lowry, MD, acting director of the National Cancer Institute, stressed the importance of the government’s support for NIH, recognizing the limitations faced by the private sector in sustaining long term cancer research.

Jacqueline Smith, a cancer survivor and the policy and advocacy manager for the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer, spoke about her personal and professional experiences with challenges that obstruct patient access to clinical trials, which she said are crucial to continued cancer research advances and improved patient outcomes.

Cancer research scientist Peter J. O’Dwyer, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Group Co-Chair of ECOG-ACRIN, emphasized the importance of standardized research terminology and data sharing as more cancer research data are collected.

“Without a consensus on the meaning of terms, such as the common toxicity criteria developed by NCI, collected data can be unduly limited in value," O’Dwyer said.

Thomas J. Lynch, Jr. MD, chief scientific officer of Bristol-Myers Squibb, predicted an increased participation in clinical trials — from about two million discrete instances currently to 50 or 100 million in the near future — would also greatly improve the conclusions cancer researchers reach.