A study of the status of clinical cancer research in the United States (1990)

J Natl Cancer Inst. 1991 Jun 19;83(12):829-37. doi: 10.1093/jnci/83.12.829.


This study has confirmed a continuing decrease in the quality and quantity of young physicians entering academic careers in clinical oncology research, defined as cancer research requiring a clinician-patient interaction. Two major contributing factors were identified: the training programs and the research environment. The primary problems for the trainees were the financial insecurity of embarking on an academic career and the poor academic status of their role models in clinical cancer research. The problems regarding the environment of academic oncology and oncology research relate primarily to the strong and widespread perception that grant proposals for clinical oncology research are at a competitive disadvantage with proposals for cancer research in the laboratory. The study results yielded two basic recommendations. The first recommendation is to improve training for clinical cancer research and to implement unique funding mechanisms for trainees. Because physicians devote 3-10 years to clinical training, a minimum of 10 years of clinical research is needed for a clinician to compete effectively as a principal investigator in the R01 and P01 grant areas. The second recommendation is to develop peer review mechanisms that allow clinical research proposals to compete within a pool restricted to proposals in this category. The consensus in the study was that when programs in clinical research and laboratory research are in competition, the clinical proposals have a lower success rate. The problem appears to rest with the fact that the reviewers are frequently from disciplines other than clinical research and, more importantly, that clinical research proposals fare badly in competition against laboratory research proposals even when they are reviewed by appropriate peers. Implementation of this recommendation will require development of a clinical oncology research study section in the Division of Research Grants at the National Institutes of Health to review R01 grant proposals for innovative clinical cancer research, providing an academic environment that would enable the clinical investigator, through increased success in obtaining grants, to be a positive role model for the young physician/scientist.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Medicine / economics
  • Clinical Medicine / education*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / methods
  • Education, Medical / economics
  • Fellowships and Scholarships
  • Humans
  • Medical Oncology / economics
  • Medical Oncology / education*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Peer Review
  • Research / economics
  • Research / education