Revitalizing the Nation’s Cancer Clinical Trials System
If today’s new understandings of cancer biology are to benefit cancer patients on a broad scale, they must be coupled with a modernized system for conducting cancer clinical trials. This system must enable clinical researchers across the nation to acquire tumor specimens and conduct genetic tests on each patient, to efficiently sequence the DNA from those samples, to manage and secure vast quantities of genetic and clinical data, and to identify subsets of patients with tumors that demonstrate changes in specific molecular pathways—pathways that can be targeted by a new generation of cancer therapies. And all of this must be done one patient at a time.
In December 2010, NCI announced its intent to begin consolidating the current nine adult cooperative groups into up to four state-of-the-art entities that will design and perform improved trials of cancer treatments, as well as explore methods of cancer prevention and early detection and study quality-of-life issues and rehabilitation during and after treatment. The sole pediatric cooperative group was created by consolidating four pediatric cooperative groups a number of years ago, and that group will not be affected by the current consolidation effort. NCI also intends to consolidate nine existing tumor banks into three to give researchers improved access to a nationally integrated tissue resource.
The consolidation of the Cooperative Group Program is the most recent in a series of changes initiated by NCI, through its Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis and the Coordinating Center for Clinical Trials, to revitalize the nation’s cancer clinical trials system.