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Washington Insider Report

On July 12, Dr. Harold Varmus assumed the Directorship of the National Cancer Institute (NCI).  No stranger to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) campus, Varmus was the Director of the NIH from 1993 to 1999.         

Varmus spent part of his first day outlining his priorities and the challenges facing the NCI before an auditorium full of NCI staffers. “Everything we do and everything that we say will be based on evidence,” Dr. Varmus said.

Among his priorities:

  • Reforming the clinical trials system. Varmus referenced a recent report by an Institute of Medicine committee that recommended substantial restructuring and increased funding of NCI’s Clinical Trials Cooperative Group Program.
  • Using the resources available at the Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center, a facility that was planned and developed during Varmus’ tenure as NIH director, more efficiently.
  • Building more productive partnerships that will speed the cancer drug approval process.

In his remarks, Varmus encouraged the NCI staff to have fun, even while researching such a challenging disease. Varmus reminded the audience, "We have to remember that the great achievements in science have almost always begun with an individual scientist having an unexpected idea."

To view an archived Webcast of Dr. Varmus' Town Hall, please go to