Operations of the National Cancer Institute's Carcinogenesis Programs

HRD-79-51: Published: Mar 30, 1979. Publicly Released: Apr 23, 1979.

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The Carcinogenesis Testing Program of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is divided into two separate activities: the carcinogenesis testing program and the carcinogenesis research program. In a review which focused primarily on the Carcinogenesis Testing Program, GAO addressed program operations involving funding, personnel shortages, the extent and causes of the backlog in the review and completion of bioassay reports, the efficiency of and need for improvements in contract management activities and the adequacy of quality controls over bioassay work, and the structure of the program and the emphasis on environmental carcinogens.

NCI has had great difficulty in recruiting scientists for its Carcinogenesis Testing Program because of the shortage of qualified individuals, unattractive employment conditions, and because NCI has taken little initiative to develop the specialists it needs. The bioassay backlog occurred because NCI did not require the preparation of bioassay reports until 1976 and limited staff has been devoted to the project. At least 223 backlog bioassays have not been reported to Congress. NCI has not adequately monitored Tracor-Jitco's performance in managing bioassay testing activities. As a result, NCI was not aware of the laboratory conditions of subcontractors and did not have important information to use in determining the amount of the award fee to be paid to Tracor-Jitco.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare should require the Director of NCI to: (1) determine the total number of bioassays completed before July 15, 1976, for which results have not been reported by NCI and submit a plan for bringing this situation to a conclusion; (2) more closely monitor the performance of Tracor-Jitco by making more frequent site visits to the subcontractors' laboratories and by verifying that Tracor-Jitco has required the laboratories to correct deficiencies found during inspections; and (3) use the information from site visits made by NCI and inspections of the laboratories as part of the basis for determining the amount of the award fee.

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