James H. Doroshow, M.D., Director, DCTD: The Developmental Therapeutics Program, which is one major component of the Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis, has really a unique mission and that is to take novel molecules and make them into medicines in the public interest. And they've been doing this for over 50 years.

Michael Grever, M.D., Former Associate Director, DTP: The drug development process is one that is very important in terms of having an impact on the outcome on patient's lives. Many new ideas come out of the laboratory and have to go through a very rigorous evaluation before they get into patients.

Doroshow: The Developmental Therapeutics Program has a wide variety of activities, spanning the range from seeking new chemical entities that might become drugs in the future to testing those molecules in a variety of different screening systems and to try to define the mechanism action of those drugs.

Mary Wolpert, Ph.D., Chief, Grants and Contracts Operations Branch, DTP: The Developmental Therapeutics Program and the clinical program that were created after World War II, specifically after 1955, were absolutely crucial to the acceptance of the idea that you can use chemotherapeutic agents to treat cancer.

Wolpert: It was not a well-accepted idea at the time because most of these agents were viewed as toxins.

Joe Tomaszewski, Ph.D., Deputy Director, DCTD: The Developmental Therapeutics was created essentially 50 years ago because big pharma was not actually doing what was necessary for the treatment of cancer. There was a lot of screening that was occurring but there wasn't a program in place that would take any promising agent, do a complete evaluation of those agents in animal models.

Wolpert: In the early days of the chemotherapy program, there was a lot of resentment on the part of many scientists who felt that the goal of NIH should be pure bench science; we should develop concepts, publish and then leave it to the drug companies and others to follow up on good ideas.

Grever: The pharmaceutical industry is a wonderful partner in this process of developing drugs. But there are certain economic decisions and business decisions that they sometimes have to make.

Edward Sausville, M.D., Ph.D., Former Associate Director, DTP: The key point is that one must really always ask how can we make a difference in bringing new ideas forward that are certainly not duplicative of what's going on in the industry, but really complement industrial efforts and give best expression to what academic researchers, both at the NIH here as well as around the world, bring to bear.

Doroshow: Many, if not most, of the original anti cancer drugs that became available in the 1960s and 1970s all came from the Developmental Therapeutics Program. And more recently, over the last ten years there have been notable successes. The anti cancer agent paclitaxel, or Taxol, is a product of research supported by the Developmental Therapeutics Program over a 20-year period.

Grever: One of the important aspects of the government's involvement in drug development is that they will stick behind a project that has importance for patient population irrespective of the size of the patient population.

Wolpert: But a single investigator simply does not have the wherewithal to do all the necessary steps to take a drug from the bench top and discovery level, all the way up through the clinic. We find that the products in our experience that have moved the fastest to marketing are those where a pharmaceutical company was involved very early on.

Doroshow: The major thing that a government sponsored program allows to happen is the ability to allow academic investigators throughout the United States, and in fact throughout the world, to have access to resources that would typically be the province only of large pharmaceutical firms.