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Last Updated: 11/9/12

News from the Field

We’ve Moved!

As the recently named director of the National Cancer Institute, one of Dr. John Niederhuber's first goals was to streamline the NCI Office of the Director (OD). The minor re-organization of the NCI OD was a pro-active effort to combat the flattening NCI budget by combining offices within the OD that have similar activities and functions. In addition, OCCAM organizationally situated within the OD, has also been repositioned.

As of March 2007, OCCAM officially transitioned and now resides organizationally within the NCI Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis (DCTD), within the division's Office of the Director. Under the leadership of Director, Dr. James H. Doroshow, DCTD's mission is to improve the lives of the American public by discovering and conducting better ways to diagnose, assess, treat, and cure cancer through stimulating, coordinating and funding a national program of cancer research.

OCCAM's programs and activities will complement this mission and be enhanced by the six other major programs and branches within DCTD: Biometric Research Branch, Cancer Imaging Program, Cancer Diagnosis Program, Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program, Developmental Therapeutics Program, and the Radiation Research Program.

With Dr. Jeffrey D. White remaining at the helm as director of OCCAM, the office will retain its previous day-to-day functions and activities and office location. The transition to the new organizational structure has been a seamless move for OCCAM staff and an unnoticed change for OCCAM grantees. “We look forward to the potential for new working collaborations within our division and to strengthen our interactions with other programs around the Institute, both extramural and intramural. However, the scope of OCCAM's mission has not changed. We will support and coordinate the Institute's CAM information and research activities through the spectrum of cancer research including prevention and symptom management,” said Dr. White.

For more information about NCI's Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis, please visit http://dctd.cancer.gov.

The First NCI Training Grant in Integrative Oncology Research

In September 2006, the first NCI T32 training grant in integrative oncology research was awarded to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC).

Led by Dr. Barrie Cassileth, this fellowship training program supports the cultivation of clinical and research skills among qualified postdoctoral researchers and physicians who have completed residency programs. The grant opportunity provides training for those who will become the future leaders in complementary therapies and botanicals research in oncology. Dr. Cassileth explained that MSKCC's “…grant application proposed training physicians so they will function at a very high level in working with cancer patients.” Another goal is to help physicians develop solid research skills to look at the merits of various complementary therapies and the mechanisms by which the therapies work. One M.D. or M.D./Ph.D. will be selected each year. Applicants may intend to pursue academic work in surgical, radiation or medical oncology, or in pain and palliative care.

Integrative oncology represents the best of mainstream medical care in oncology combined with complementary therapies for more comprehensive treatment. Complementary therapies commonly used include mind-body therapies (e.g., meditation, self-hypnosis, and relaxation therapies), fitness and nutrition, massage therapies, music therapy, acupuncture, botanicals, and yoga. Research has shown that some of these complementary therapies have the potential to reduce treatment side effects and improve quality of life. Herbs and other botanicals are under study for their potential benefits against cancer. Successful applicants will also be trained and qualified to practice acupuncture upon completion of this fellowship.

Dr. David Eckstein, a Program Director in NCI's Cancer Training Branch and program official for this training grant, explained the importance of this work to NCI. “Many cancer patients and physicians have an interest in complementary and/or alternative therapies. Unfortunately, the acceptance of these therapies has been stymied by the lack of rigorous scientific investigation.” He hopes that this program will develop scientists who can establish their own independent research in integrative oncology, by providing them with additional training in clinical research, complementary medicine, and botanicals research.

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