Helping Choose Cutting-Edge Cancer Research for the Department of Defense

I’ve just spent three great days in Washington reviewing grants for the Peer Reviewed Cancer Research Program, part of the Department of Defense.

Our panel of scientists and consumer reviewers worked hard, and I learned a lot from the scientists on the panel who were all experts in their fields.  It felt good to know that there some really wonderful ideas out there moving cancer research forward and that my critiques and scores will help decide the best of the best to receive funding.

The experience made the hairy early-morning drive to the airport through more than three feet of snow well worth it.

The Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) fund and manage research that has been specifically requested by Congress. Programs don’t come from either the President’s budget or the Department of Defense, but arise from requests from consumer advocates who work to get them included in the annual budgets passed by Congress.

The CDMRP seeks to fill research funding gaps by focusing on high-risk, high-gain research with an emphasis on innovative ideas, breakthrough technologies, and novel partnerships.

This is the first year that colorectal cancer has been part of CDMRP — after much work by Colorectal Cancer Coalition advocates to get it included.

From the beginning CDMRP has included consumers as part of grant review, particularly to judge the impact of proposed research on real patients in the real world.  As I read each proposal, I considered how soon the laboratory studies might translate into clinical trials with people and the difference the research would make in the lives of people with cancer.

For Fiscal Year 2010 the Peer Reviewed Cancer Research Program includes funding for

  • Melanoma and other skin cancers
  • Pediatric brain tumor
  • Genetic cancer and genomic medicine
  • Kidney cancer
  • Blood cancers
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Listeria vaccine for cancer
  • Radiation protection using nanotechnology

The mission of the PRCRP is to

Foster ground-breaking research, team science, and partnerships for the development of better prevention, early detection, and more effective treatment of cancer.

It’s a mission that I was proud to be part of.

Other Colorectal Cancer Coalition research advocates who are part of the PRCRP project include Nancy Roach, Michael Katz, Pam McAllister, and Flo Kurttila — along with all of the advocates who visited and wrote and called their members of Congress and Senators on behalf of the program funding.

While this year’s budget for  was modest — $15 million to be shared among eight programs — the Coalition’s goal is to raise the funding to $50 million in the coming year.  You can help do that by contacting your members of Congress.

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