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Health Subcommittee Passes Bill to Address Recalcitrant Cancer

September 14, 2012—The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health Sept. 11 approved by voice vote an amended version of legislation requiring the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to establish individual “scientific frameworks” to address recalcitrant cancers.  The subcommittee approved an amendment in the nature of a substitute offered by Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.) that expanded the scope of H.R. 733, originally introduced by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) as the Pancreatic Cancer Research and Education Act.

As amended, the renamed Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act of 2012 requires the director of NCI to develop a scientific framework for the conduct and support of research on each recalcitrant cancer that has a 5-year relative survival rate of less than 10 percent and is estimated to cause at least 300,000 deaths in the United States each year.

Each framework is to include a review of the current literature and a summary of relevant emerging scientific areas and promising scientific advances; the availability of qualified researchers; initiatives and partnerships for the coordination of NCI research with other entities; public and private resources such as patient registries and tissue banks to facilitate research; research questions relating to basic, translational, and clinical science; and recommendations to advance research and address the research questions identified.  The bill mandates the NCI director to consider each relevant scientific framework when making recommendations for exception funding for grant applications.

The bill requires the NCI director to convene a working group comprised of representatives of appropriate federal agencies and other non-federal entities to assist in developing each scientific framework.  Each scientific framework is to be developed within 18 months of enactment, with a review and update within 5 years of the initial framework.

The original legislation would have required the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a 13-member Interdisciplinary Pancreatic Cancer Coordinating Committee, with responsibility for setting research strategies, defining budgetary needs, appointing a peer review committee to evaluate and prioritize research grant applications, and recommending for exception funding pancreatic cancer applications that fall short of the institute’s “payline.”

In an Aug. 21 letter to the bill’s sponsors and committee leaders, the AAMC expressed  concern “about the adverse impact of creating an entirely new review structure and process outside of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to allocate NCI funds… [that] would bypass and disrupt the NIH-wide merit review system, which has been the foundation for a research enterprise that has transformed the biosciences and the practice of medicine, and is the envy of the rest of the world.”  The AAMC also expressed concern that “the narrow scope and separate authority of the Coordinating Committee would serve to isolate pancreatic cancer research from advances being made not only with other cancers but across the spectrum of medical research.…”

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) introduced the Pancreatic Cancer Research and Education Act as S. 362.  The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee is expected to consider an amended version of the bill Sept. 19.


Dave Moore
Senior Director, Government Relations
Telephone: 202-828-0559


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