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ASCO Board Approves Clinical Trials Strategic Plan

Jan 04, 2011

January 2011: Clinical trials have the potential to produce definitive data that facilitates practice-changing treatments for patients with cancer. Without patient-centered trials, the cancer research enterprise cannot sustain progress. For more than a decade, ASCO has made increasing participation in clinical trials a top priority.

In September 2010, the ASCO Board of Directors approved a clinical trials strategic plan—defining ASCO’s role and desired outcomes for cancer clinical trials and determining action steps needed to achieve these outcomes.

The strategic plan was formulated at the March 2010 ASCO Board of Directors retreat. During this planning session, the Board was deliberate about focusing on:

  1. clinical trials specifically, rather than the broader term of clinical research
  2. the impact of clinical trials on patient outcomes and the resulting improvements in quality and effectiveness of cancer care
  3. the important role of oncologists in informing patients about clinical trials during treatment discussions

Accordingly, the Board developed a strategic issue statement that guided its discussion: “Clinical trials are the key to building a high value cancer care system, yet clinical trials remain unavailable to most cancer patients.”

The Board’s discussion was informed by an analysis of the National Cancer Institute’s Cooperative Group system by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), as well as through collaboration with ASCO’s Cancer Research Committee (CRC). During this period, Theodore S. Lawrence, MD, PhD (University of Michigan), Carolyn D. Runowicz, MD (University of Connecticut), and Neal J. Meropol, MD (Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine), served as Chairs of the Cancer Research Committee.

Following the Board’s retreat and April 15 release of the IOM report “A National Cancer Clinical Trials System for the 21st Century: Reinvigorating the NCI Cooperative Group Program," the CRC prioritized the outcomes and action items for final Board approval.

Anticipated outcomes
The Board articulated five anticipated outcomes that would occur if the identified strategic issue is addressed, as well as action items needed to achieve these outcomes. In framing the outcomes, the Board focused on the key stakeholders who must be involved: oncologists, government agencies, policymakers, the general public, patients, and third-party payers or insurers. The outcomes follow that:

  1. Oncologists routinely discuss clinical research participation with their patients as a metric of quality cancer care. Physicians view clinical trials participation as integral to cancer treatment and not solely as a “last resort.”
  2. A coordinated, well-funded federal effort ensures that clinical trials are launched, enabled, and supported.
  3. The general public and policymakers view publicly supported clinical trials as essential to the prevention and cure of cancer.
  4. Patients view trials as a treatment option, seek oncologists offering trials, and inquire about clinical trials.
  5. Health payers encourage and support participation in cancer clinical trials.

The Board of Directors’ strategic plan lays an important foundation for the work of the Society over the coming years. The CRC is partnering with other ASCO committees and advisory groups to implement initiatives that are aimed at achieving these outcomes. The committee will continue to update the Board on its progress.

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