“When did you do the DOD?”
“Are you planning to do the DOD?”
“What did you think of the DOD?” “How do I get on to the DOD?”
For most American’s the DOD is the Department of Defense. And it is here too, but in the world of breast cancer, that’s not precisely what we mean. For us “the DOD” embodies one of our greatest hopes…“the DOD” may just find us a cure.
“The DOD” actually refers to Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP), and specifically to the one that focuses on Breast Cancer. As part of the DOD Appropriation, funds are designated for medical research in, at this time, 19 different diseases/disorders. Begun in 1992, the CDMRP has funded over $6.5B in medical research, evaluating over 80,000 applications and issuing over 10,700 research grants. Awesome, huh?
It gets more awesome…
There are some hallmarks of the CDMRP that have made it an international model for peer-review grant funding.
The first is that they seek out innovative, high-reward projects (for example, the development of Herceptin® was a result of the DOD). There is an understanding that we are going to have to take some risks when it comes to cancer, and that we need leaps forward rather than baby steps.
In addition, scientists who are funded by the DOD are required to share their results, good or bad, with their colleagues. For the Breast Cancer Research Program (BCRP), there is an Era of Hope conference held every three years, where presentations are made and ideas are exchanged.
And, most relevant to me, the DOD embraces consumer advocates at every level of decision-making. And THIS is what we mean by “doing the DOD.” Currently I am serving on my second DOD panel. This requires that I read and evaluate a number of applications in the area of my assignment. I will spend hours on each one, in an effort to make sure I truly understand the nature of the project, how it might benefit consumers, its likelihood of success, and more. In a few weeks I will be in Washington to discuss the merits of each of about 40 proposals with a team of 15-20 scientists and 3 consumers. Together we will review, evaluate and score each application. Our results will then move on to the Integration Panel were final funding decisions will be made, based on our recommendations and the DOD priorities.
It’s a big job. Huge! And a responsibility I take quite seriously. I represent all of us…women with cancer, men with cancer, men and women who will get cancer, and if I am REALLY lucky, those who will NEVER be touched by this disease.
I’m quite certain I’d have felt wholly unable to tackle this project, were it not for the Project LEAD Institute training I received from the National Breast Cancer Coalition. Miraculously the LEAD faculty and mentors succeeded in getting a fundamental understanding of the need for evidence-based science, cell biology, research design, and much more.
So, for the next few weeks, I’m “doing the DOD.” I will read and review 16 scientific proposals. It will consume much of my free time, including the 4 days I will spend in Washington. And it will be worth it, because it may just be that one of the proposals on my desk is a key to the cure! (But if you want to know more about Project LEAD® or the DOD, I promise to take a break!)
P.S. Over the weekend I discovered this Era of Hope video – the whats and whys and PROMISE of this project. Please check it out!