|Patrick Maguire, MD
Patrick Maguire, MD, is a board certified radiation oncologist at the Coastal Carolina Radiation
Oncology Center in Wilmington, North Carolina. Dr. Maguire is also the Principal Investigator on a
National Cancer Institute (NCI)-funded Cancer Disparities Research Grant
Please tell us more about conducting radiation oncology clinical trials in a community setting. How did you get started? What is unique about this specialty area?
: Radiation oncology clinical trials represent a minority of the cancer trials being conducted.
Our site got started in 2004 when we were awarded an NCI Cancer Disparities research grant with the goal of improving the outcomes of underserved patients in North Carolina. This grant pushed us to open radiation trials with an eye toward making sure underserved
populations were represented.
To someone just starting out, I’d recommend they initially focus on one or two disease sites.
For example, our initial focus was on prostate cancer and, thanks in large part to my partner
Dr. Mike Papagikos, and our research staff, we continued building our portfolio until we had a
trial available to just about every patient we treated for prostate cancer.
What types of trial sponsors do you work with?
: We primarily conduct NCI Cooperative Group trials. Industry trials are a possibility, and better
financially, but we find the NCI trials more scientifically interesting. The majority of our trials
are sponsored by the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG). We also conduct trials with
our colleagues in gynecological and medical oncology through the Gynecological Oncology
Group (GOG) and the Cancer and Leukemia Group B (CALGB), respectively.
What advice would you give to early career investigators interested in clinical research?
: Research can be more challenging in private practice than in academics. I would recommend
choosing a practice where the mindset is pro-research. It’s helpful to be around like-minded
colleagues. It might make financial sense to conduct industry trials for some groups, unless
you’re willing (as my colleagues and I are) to run “in the red” with predominantly cooperative
How can fellows and early-career investigators get involved in community-based radiation oncology research?
: I would recommend that radiation oncologists get involved in RTOG. I’d also encourage them
to search the NCI website for opportunities. There are plenty of grant opportunities geared
to our patient population. Radiation oncologists should be pursuing these opportunities just
as much as our colleagues in medical oncology do.
You have been a principal investigator on several trials. What is that experience like?
: Having a strong mentor is key. I’d recommend collaborating with someone in academics if
possible. The divide between cancer specialists in university and private practice settings is one that
can and should be overcome for the best chance of long-term success. Inertia is the biggest hurdle.
It’s easier to keep things going once you get started.
How do you collaborate with other investigators and/or research sites?
: We have affiliations with the University of North Carolina (UNC) and Wake Forest. These
partnerships are a two-way street. There needs to be symbiosis, give-and-take. For example,
Wake Forest is a NCI-designated Community Clinical Oncology Program (CCOP) research
base. They provide us with selection of cancer control and symptom management trials that
are not readily available to us via other channels. We conduct some combined trials with
Wake Forest in which there is a principal investigator from each site.
Through our partnership with UNC, they provide mentorship but we contribute experience from the community. For example, we recently designed and implemented a trial for patients with advanced head and neck cancer in the community that our colleagues at UNC decided to open for patients at the university.
Do you have any concluding remarks?
Collaboration is the key to success. It is very hard to carry a radiation oncology research
program without multidisciplinary relationships. It’s also beneficial to ensure that the
hospital administration understands the benefits of clinical trials for patients and for the institution.