Clinical Trials: Translating Research to Benefit Patients
Cancer Clinical Trials at MCW
Ming You, MD, PhD, was recruited in 2010 as director of the Medical College of Wisconsin Cancer Center.
Achieving National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation is a priority for the MCW Cancer Center, and expanding the clinical trials enterprise has been a critical component in that quest. NCI designation recognizes excellence in cancer research, opens doors to expanded research funding and related economic benefits and jobs, and brings the most advanced cancer care to patients.
To strengthen its program, in 2010 the MCW Cancer Center recruited two critical leaders: Ming You, MD, PhD, as director, and James Thomas, MD '91, GME '95, PhD '89, as director of the Adult Cancer Clinical Trials Office (ACCTO). Both individuals recognized that a more comprehensive clinical trials effort was needed at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin. "We weren't broad or deep enough, both for NCI designation and for our community," notes Dr. Thomas, who also is a professor of medicine (hematology/oncology). "Every department had its own little shop for clinical trials, and we needed to make a centralized office to bring together the people and technology necessary to build a robust and all-encompassing program."
Following a year of planning, in January 2012 the Clinical Trials Office began using OnCore clinical trial management software and created an educator position to develop standard operating procedures and training manuals. Today, the MCW Cancer Center boasts more than 70 staff members and 100 physicians who are actively engaged in cancer research. "Building the infrastructure has allowed us to become more competitive with pharmaceutical companies, which in turn gives us access to patients and clinical trials. We are now conducting clinical trials where our faculty approach pharma companies, but also where we develop the compound and bring it directly to patients," Dr. Thomas adds.
Dr. Thomas acknowledges the significant impact of the Nicholas Family Foundation Cancer Translational Research Unit (TRU) of the CTSI on clinical trials, which provides an optimal clinical research environment for both research participants and translational investigators through access to space, resources and the expertise of research support personnel. "The TRU has helped us double the number of cancer clinical trials in the past four years, triple the number of patients and dramatically improve the number of early phase and investigator-initiated clinical trials," he says.
"I want fewer people to have their lives shortened by cancer, and the only way we can improve this is through clinical research. I firmly believe we are in the hope business."
– Dr. James Thomas
Currently, the ACCTO is running nearly 220 cancer clinical trials. "In conjunction with the CTSI, we need to continue to grow both our faculty and our patients in order to support more cancer clinical trials," Dr. Thomas shares. "Trials are getting more complicated, and some are not just disease-based any more. Watson will help coordinate accessibility so we can get our patients into clinical trials here and elsewhere around the country," he says, referring to IBM's cognitive computer technology that will match cancer patients with thousands of clinical trials nationwide. F&MCW's Cancer Network will be one of only two academic institutions in the US pioneering the use of Watson for clinical trial matching – which is slated to occur in mid-to-late 2017.
Philanthropy Drives Search For New Treatments
The Triumph Fund, established by the family of the late John Hovel, raises funds to support training, education and research projects for the MCW Clinical Trials Office. Since 2013, the family has raised approximately $165,000. Recently, their fundraising efforts supported a clinical trial by Meena Bedi, MD, GME '13, to study sarcoma, a type of cancer that grows in connective tissues.
– Maureen Remmel • Sara L. Wilkins
CLINICAL | DISCOVERY
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