National Cancer Institute NCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research News
May 4, 2010 • Volume 7 / Number 9

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Guest Director's Update

NCCCP: Building a Community-based Research Platform and Enhancing Cancer Care

Dr. Maureen R. Johnson Dr. Maureen R. Johnson

In 2007, NCI funded 16 community cancer centers at hospitals around the country in a pilot program called the NCI Community Cancer Centers Program (NCCCP). This program is a unique public-private partnership designed to support cancer research and to study ways to enhance access and increase the quality of cancer care at community hospitals. The participating sites form a network to serve as a community-based platform to support basic, clinical, and population-based research spanning the cancer care continuum—from screening, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment to survivorship and end-of-life care—with a particular focus on addressing health care disparities across the continuum.

To build this research platform, sites are enhancing their clinical trials infrastructure to support early-phase clinical trials and a broader range of trials, changing procedures to collect high-quality biospecimens following NCI’s Best Practices for Biospecimens Resources, implementing electronic health records (EHRs), and adopting tools from NCI’s cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid (caBIG), an extensive information technology network that supports cancer research.  

To enhance quality cancer care in local communities, sites are studying ways to reduce cancer health care disparities by expanding outreach, screening, and care across the cancer care continuum. They are designing and evaluating specific projects to meet focused needs for unique populations within their communities. Sites are also studying ways to promote evidence-based and coordinated care and ways to extend supportive care after treatment through enhanced cancer survivorship and palliative care programs at community hospitals. These activities have already resulted in unique NCCCP research collaborations with programs and organizations such as the NCI-designated cancer centers, The Cancer Genome Atlas program, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, and the American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer.

Using this community-based research platform, the long-term goals of the NCCCP are to support research to: reduce cancer health care disparities, improve the quality of cancer care, enhance cancer survivorship and palliative care programs, encourage cancer advocacy, and support the investigation of new drugs through clinical trials. In addition, they will continue to expand their information technology capabilities through adoption of oncology-enhanced EHRs and caBIG tools and increase high-quality biospecimen collection to support research for personalized medicine

Based on the progress made in the pilot program, NCI used $80 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to expand the number of participating hospitals, as well as the breadth of activities at the current sites. The original network of 16 community cancer centers in 14 states has grown to 30 hospitals in 22 states.

Expansion of the NCCCP is supporting a number of critical NCI priorities in the area of translational research. For example, some sites are collaborating with investigators from NCI’s Early Drug Development Program to conduct early-phase clinical trials. Several partnerships with NCI’s Community Networks Program investigators were established to increase cancer screening for racial and ethnic minorities and other underserved populations. Sites are conducting a study to evaluate the impact of multidisciplinary care on the processes and outcomes of cancer care, and are participating in a research project that is under way in settings across the United States and internationally to evaluate the Patient Reported Outcomes version of the Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events (PRO-CTCAE), a reporting system for clinical trial patients to self-report adverse events. Additional projects are under way to study ways to help survivors transition to living with cancer after treatment and promote smoking cessation among cancer survivors and their family members.

The NCCCP has accomplished many of the pilot goals, and the original 16 sites are currently summarizing their experience and lessons learned to be shared with the broader community. Results of the formal evaluation will be available in the coming year, allowing further refinement so the program can continue to study the best ways to enhance cancer care in the community setting and expand a community-based cancer center network to support research across the cancer continuum.

Dr. Maureen R. Johnson
Project Officer, NCI Community Cancer Centers Program
Office of the NCI Director

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