By Dr. James L. Wade III, Principal Investigator,
CCOPs initially arose as mechanisms that would enable community oncologists to participate in cooperative groups' cancer treatment studies. Often such protocols would include the investigation of a new drug. Some studies would redefine the standard of care for a particular disease.
Although these programs focused on treatment trials have been quite successful, community oncologists have come to recognize that the greatest reduction in the cancer burden will only come from disease prevention. All of the advances in prolonging survival and reducing relapse pale in comparison to cancer prevention. CCOP investigators have learned this from their patients, their patients' families, and their communities. CCOPs now view themselves as the best medium for chemoprevention studies at the local level.
Indeed, CCOPs are the ideal platform for such prevention studies because they align the principal investigator's recognition that chemoprevention holds great promise with his or her local community's desire to participate in the research process.
The successes of such cancer awareness events as the "Race for the Cure" and the "Walk for Life" are clues to how important local communities feel about doing their part to help. CCOPs then take this local interest and desire to participate to a higher level by enrolling at-risk individuals into studies designed to reduce cancer incidence.
The cooperative groups have a responsibility to harness their considerable expertise to design a national prevention program for all malignancies that are candidates for prevention strategies. When armed with good national large-scale prevention programs, the CCOPs can fulfill their initial promise of truly reducing the cancer burden.