By: Richard Pazdur, M.D.
I am honored to be selected by Commissioner Califf today as the acting director of FDA’s new Oncology Center of Excellence (OCE) in support of the Vice President’s National Cancer Moonshot Initiative.
This new center will be a place where the combined skills of regulatory scientists and reviewers with oncology clinical expertise in drugs, biologics, and devices will come together to support an integrated approach to the advancement of cancer treatment.
The OCE emulates both academia and cancer care centers, which are increasingly organized in multidisciplinary models to enhance collaboration, which is so essential when confronting a complex disease like cancer.
Such a collaborative approach – the sharing of ideas, information and best practices – closely fits my own vision for oncology at the FDA.
When I first joined FDA from the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston Texas in 1999, oncology products were reviewed in different divisions within the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), in addition to those reviewed by other centers. My current Office of Hematology and Oncology Products (OHOP) was created in 2005 in an attempt to consolidate the review of oncology products within CDER. Additional reorganization into disease-specific teams followed in 2011. This reorganization greatly enhanced both our retention and recruitment of professional staff from leading academic centers. Disease-specific expertise expedited review processes and fostered multiple outreach activities to patient and professional groups. Between 2010 to the present, OHOP approved 61 new molecular entities to treat a variety of cancers – and most approvals were well before their deadlines.
The OCE will build on FDA’s integrative approach to medical product development and the collaborative work that has been a hallmark of the broader FDA oncology community for nearly a decade such as our cross-center monthly meetings to discuss key oncology issues, collaborative workshops and programs and the work we’ve done together on research and scientific publications.
This new center will also continue to facilitate the incorporation of the patient view in our regulatory decision-making, which has become a personal mission for me since my wife Mary, an oncology nurse, died of ovarian cancer last November.
And by bridging the various medical product centers, the OCE will be ideally suited to support innovation and to address the recognition that multiple treatment and diagnostic options are in the best interest of patients.
Certainly the key to OCE’s future success will be leveraging the talents of the staff at FDA. The very first thing I plan to do as acting director is to meet with those involved in oncology medical product development and review across centers to hear their ideas for the OCE and how we can work together to enhance our efforts across the agency.
Developing the structure of the OCE is an ongoing process. Working closely with the center directors we will develop a staged approach for establishing the new center while ensuring the work across centers continues without disruption.
I look forward to guiding the agency through this initial phase, building our cross-disciplinary review staff, providing external outreach to diverse stakeholders and streamlining administrative processes to ensure rapid review of important cancer products to the American public.
Richard Pazdur, M.D., is FDA’s Acting Director, Oncology Center of Excellence