National Cancer Institute (NCI) Director Norman Sharpless, MD, announced his decision to step down as the institute’s director in April 2022, a position he has held since 2017. According to NCI, the institute’s principal deputy director, Douglas R. Lowy, MD, will serve as acting director at the end of the month.

NCI said that Sharpless “championed health equity; developed important programs in data science, including the Childhood Cancer Data Initiative; and advocated forcefully for policies to ensure continued support for investigator-initiated research in cancer and diversity in the cancer research workforce” during his time at the agency. Sharpless also led the creation of the institute’s equity and inclusion program.

“During my time in the federal government, I have been inspired by the ways that researchers, caregivers, advocates, and survivors have broken down silos to collaborate and embrace new ways of working together to solve some of the toughest problems in cancer,” Sharpless said.

“The president’s goal of ending cancer as we know it today is grounded, in part, in the work of scientific discovery that Sharpless has led at NCI,” White House Cancer Moonshot Coordinator Danielle Carnival, PhD, said. “We have an audacious but achievable goal to reduce the cancer death rate by at least half in 25 years and to improve the experience of all whose lives are impacted by cancer—working across government to develop and deploy additional ways to prevent, detect, and treat cancer—and Sharpless contributed greatly to that vision.”

“Working at NCI has been the highlight of my career, and I am honored to have had the chance to serve my country in this role, alongside so many talented scientists and administrators,” Sharpless said. “I leave this job knowing that the talent and passion present at NCI, across the Biden-Harris administration and throughout the cancer research community, will continue to fuel tremendous progress for people with cancer in the years ahead.”