publication date: Dec. 6, 2019

NCI Director’s Report

Sharpless reflects on his time at FDA: “The engine producing new cancer therapies and diagnostics is doing very well”

By Matthew Bin Han Ong

The progress in cancer exceeds that of any other therapeutic area right now—at least as far as FDA is concerned, NCI Director Ned Sharpless said at a Dec. 3 joint meeting of the Board of Scientific Advisors and the National Cancer Advisory Board.

Sharpless served as acting FDA commissioner from April through early November. He is succeeded by Stephen Hahn, chief medical executive at MD Anderson Cancer Center, whose candidacy was confirmed Dec. 3 as FDA commissioner by a Senate committee. Hahn’s confirmation now moves to the full  Senate.

On Nov. 6, Sharpless announced his homecoming in an email to NCI staff, subject-lined “Happy to be back!” (The Cancer Letter, Nov. 8).

“Both administratively and in devices and diagnostics and therapeutics, the pace of the FDA is terrific, and it was very exciting to be involved with that,” Sharpless said in his first remarks to NCI advisors since his return to the institute. “And I can tell you, that’s not the way it is in all disease areas.

“It was a busy seven months, where we did a lot of interesting things.”

Sharpless opened his talk with a slide titled “What I did on my summer vacation”—and illustrated by what appeared to be stock images of normal people living their best summer lives: faux cowboys on horseback in the American West (or Chilean high deserts; why not?), ripped surfer dudes riding a cresting green wave, tourists in oblique solidarity with the Leaning Tower of … Continue reading Sharpless reflects on his time at FDA: “The engine producing new cancer therapies and diagnostics is doing very well”

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