Mark Clanton urges faster cancer research approval process

David Maly

Cancer researcher Dr. Mark Clanton urged members of the UT community to write to their legislators in hopes of speeding up the 15 to 20 year approval process cancer research must go through before it becomes widely accepted in the medical field.

Clanton, chief medical officer for the High Plains Division of the American Cancer Society, said much has been done in terms of cancer research. He said the rate of deaths caused by cancer in the U.S. has been dropping at a rate of roughly 1 percent per year since 1991, but there are obstacles preventing cancer research from advancing as quickly as it could be.

“As people who pay taxes, you should care about these things,” Canton said.

He delivered a talk titled “The War on Cancer: 41 Years After President Nixon’s Declaration” to a crowd of 546 people on campus Friday. The talk was held as part of the Environmental Science Institute’s Hot Science — Cool Talks series, which the organization holds to allow researchers the opportunity to share their work with the public. Clanton gave an overview of how far cancer research has come since U.S. President Richard Nixon signed the National Cancer Act into law in 1971. The act increased federal efforts to fight cancer through increased research funding and other initiatives.

Clanton said the cancer research approval process consists of five stages: discovery, translation, Food and Drug Administration approval, translation to practice and wide acceptance. He said the translation to practice phase, which includes making research conducive to use on humans, can take 14 to 17 years alone, and such a long period of time is often not necessary.

He said the translation process needs additional funding from the federal government through the FDA and increased incentives for academics to participate in that step in the process.

Clanton said the process for obtaining tenure at most public universities rewards professors for individual work in their fields, not for the collaboration in and outside of their fields that is often necessary for the translation step of the research approval process. 

He urged members of the audience to write to their legislators advocating for increased funding and a change in the tenure process. 

William Sage, law school professor and vice provost for health affairs, said with plans for a UT-Austin medical school continuing, the University should care about these issues more than ever, as ground breaking cancer research could soon be done closer to home. 

“In many ways, all eyes will be on us to do what we can,” Sage said.

Printed on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012 as: Cancer research slow in approval process