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Today, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a new report, “A National Cancer Clinical Trials System for the 21st Century: Reinvigorating the NCI Cooperative Group Program,” which provides comprehensive recommendations to strengthen the National Cancer Institute’s Clinical Trials Cooperative Group Program. The 10 Cooperative Groups conduct collaborative large-scale cancer clinical trials that currently enroll 25,000 participants annually. Cooperative Group trials are conducted at institutions and community-based practices throughout the US and abroad. Cooperative Group trials have led to fundamental advances in cancer treatment, quality of life, and prevention, and have contributed to the significant reduction in death rates from cancer over the past 15 years.
Following is a statement from Richard L. Schilsky, MD, immediate past president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), and Chief of the Hematology-Oncology Section and Deputy Director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Chicago:
“The Cooperative Clinical Research Program is the jewel of our nation’s cancer research system, and is critical to advancing progress against the disease. In fact, the majority of what we know about treating cancer has come from this program. ASCO supports the recommendations in the IOM report and we urge NCI to increase the program’s funding and make needed changes to the system.
“The report emphasizes that adequate investment is essential to the continued success of Cooperative Group trials. But today, the system is being starved of funding. In real dollars, the program receives less funding today than it did a decade ago. Considering the program’s vital importance to the nation’s fight against cancer, it is clearly not in the public interest that it receives such a small fraction of NCI’s overall budget.
“ASCO calls on NCI to double its support for cooperative clinical research within five years. Congress had the vision to build this unique network, which includes institutions and community based practices, allowing access to clinical trials in virtually every community in the U.S. At a time of unparalleled opportunity, this collaborative system is a critical link between scientific discovery and improved treatments for cancer patients. Increased federal funding for cooperative clinical research would increase the number of cancer clinical trials, increase patient enrollment, speed translation of genetic discoveries into treatments for patients, and cover the real costs of participation.
Note to editors:
A new ASCO study published today in ASCO’s Journal of Oncology Practice finds that one-third of Cooperative Group sites plan to limit participation in NCI-funded clinical cancer research because reimbursement rates only cover a fraction of the cost of physician participation. To see the release, please click here.