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New Interactive Resource Focuses on Community-based Clinical Investigators

Sep 07, 2011

Commitment to clinical research from community-based oncologists makes advances in cancer care a reality for current and future patients. However, maintaining a community-based research site has become an increasing challenge in recent years, and research program management skills often are not taught in formal training programs.Through a new interview series and discussion forum on ASCOconnection.org, oncology professionals are able to consider the advantages and disadvantages of community-based clinical research. The information may be particularly useful for those early in their careers or considering a career change. The interview series is one of many efforts that have stemmed from the ASCO Statement on Minimum Standards and Exemplary Attributes of Clinical Trial Sites (Zon R, Meropol N, Catalano R, et al. J Clin Oncol. 2008:26;2562-2567).

Opportunities for advice, discussion
The interview series sheds light on the approaches of successful clinical research programs in the community setting. Through a Q&A posted on the forum section of ASCOconnection.org, featured investigators from practices that received a Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO Clinical Trials Participation Award (CTPA) offer advice and “lessons learned.” Site visitors then have the opportunity to pose questions to the featured investigators, participate in ensuing discussions, and connect with colleagues in the field.Medical professionals may use this new resource on ASCOconnection.org to gain insight into promoting clinical trials participation, implementing quality research programs, and addressing challenges to achieve their own success in community-based clinical trials.

“Enormous potential” at the community level
Community oncologists’ contributions have enormous potential for accelerating the clinical trial process, which is necessary for improving treatment options for patients. Approximately 85% of patients with cancer are seen in the community setting, and 50% to 60% of clinical trial accrual is from the community. Yet among practice settings, only 2% to 7% of all patients with cancer participate in clinical trials, and oncologists’ participation is also low, with estimates of less than 20% (J Oncol Pract. 2008:4;185-187).

“If you look at accrual of clinical trials, especially NCI trials, across the country, some of the highest accrual rates come from community programs,” said Nicholas J. Petrelli, MD, a participating physician in the series and a 2004 CTPA recipient. Dr. Petrelli is the Bank of America Endowed Medical Director at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center at Christiana Care Health Services, as well as Professor of Surgery at Thomas Jefferson University, and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Delaware.

“Perfect mix”

“Conducting clinical research will make you a better physician, and the opportunities to conduct researchin a communitysetting are active, rewarding, and plentiful. I’ve found that community-based research is a perfect mix of the benefits from academia and private practice settings,” said Gary I. Cohen, MD, FACP, a 2010 CTPA recipient participating in the series. Dr. Cohen is the Medical Director of the Sandra & Malcolm Berman Cancer Institute at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center (GBMC). He is also the GBMC Director of the Johns Hopkins Clinical Research Network and holds an appointment as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Oncology at the Johns Hopkins University.

Visit the Forums section ofASCOconnection.org and select“Community Clinical Investigators” to view Dr. Petrelli’s and Dr. Cohen’s interviews and to participate in discussions with colleagues. New interviews with additional CTPA recipients will be added monthly.

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