University Cancer Research Fund panel sets priorities, adds national experts
The fund was created this year by the North Carolina General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Mike Easley in July. The goal is to accelerate cancer research at UNC’s School of Medicine, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and the North Carolina Cancer Hospital, now under construction. The fund will increase to $50 million per year beginning in 2009.
The fund’s governance committee, chaired by UNC President Erskine Bowles, is charged with setting research funding priorities that advance understanding of the causes and course of cancer, apply this knowledge to devise new methods of prevention and treatment, and improve cancer outcomes in the state and the nation.
The committee has identified three broad areas that build upon existing strengths: discovery of the molecular and cellular processes associated with cancer and how their interaction with genetic predisposition results in cancer; innovation by using new knowledge to inform, design, evaluate and implement research in the prevention, early detection and treatment of cancer; and delivery of improved cancer care throughout North Carolina.
The fund will target seven specific research priorities under the umbrella of these strategic areas:
- Assessing cancer in North Carolina with particular attention to disparities;
- Promoting innovative research in cancer prevention and early detection;
- Developing clinical application of genetics and genomics;
- Turning basic research into new cancer therapies;
- Defining early response to cancer therapy and improving cancer clinical trials;
- Enhancing clinical excellence across our multidisciplinary cancer teams and across the state; and
- Initiating a nation-leading, multi-component cancer survivorship research program.
The first-year budget also includes funds for investment in innovative research ideas through a competitive pilot or seed grants program and in promising new researchers. To assure the fund’s long-term success, the fund will establish processes for ongoing research strategic planning and evaluation.
Two nationally renowned cancer experts will serve on the fund’s governance committee. Edward Benz Jr. is president and chief executive officer of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. John Mendelsohn is president of the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
“The Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at UNC is one of the top National Cancer Institute-designated centers in the country and has an admirable record of interaction and collaboration with other cancer centers,” said Benz, also the Richard and Susan Smith professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
“I am pleased to have the opportunity to work with Dr. (Shelley) Earp and the Lineberger leadership to find the very best ways that this funding can be used to advance collaborative translational science and the overall mission of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center,” Benz said.
“The North Carolina General Assembly was incredibly forward thinking in establishing this fund dedicated to advancing cancer research and providing the institutions here with a steady stream of support,” said Mendelsohn, a professor of cancer medicine at the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.
“Today, funding for cancer research must come from a wide range of government, industry and private sources to step up findings and move those advancements to patients faster. The state’s investment today will touch the lives of millions of North Carolinians – and Americans – for decades to come,” Mendelsohn said.
Other committee members, who are UNC-Chapel Hill administrators, are Dean Robert Blouin of the School of Pharmacy; Dr. Shelton Earp, director of the Lineberger Cancer Center; Dean Barbara Rimer of the School of Public Health; and Dr. William Roper, dean of the UNC School of Medicine, vice chancellor for medical affairs and chief executive officer of the UNC Health Care System.
For more information about the fund, visit: http://www.unclineberger.org/ucrf/
UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center
As part of the UNC system, UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center is the public comprehensive cancer center for the state and the people of North Carolina. The center’s mission is to reduce cancer occurrence and death in North Carolina and the nation through research, treatment, training and outreach. Center faculty treat cancer patients, conduct research into the causes of cancer, develop and direct statewide programs in cancer prevention and train future physicians, nurses, scientists, and public health professionals. In 2009 UNC Health Care will open the new North Carolina Cancer Hospital, the clinical home of UNC Lineberger. For more information visit http://unclineberger.org.
UNC Health Care System
The UNC Health Care System is a not-for-profit integrated health care system owned by the state of North Carolina and based in Chapel Hill. It exists to further the teaching mission of the University of North Carolina and to provide state-of-the-art patient care. UNC Health Care is comprised of UNC Hospitals, ranked consistently among the best medical centers in the country; the UNC School of Medicine, a nationally eminent research institution; community practices; home health and hospice services in seven central North Carolina counties; and Rex Healthcare and its provider network in Wake County. For more information visit www.unchealthcare.org.