publication date: Sep. 12, 2014



Past Coverage Of Changes in
the NCI Clinical Trials System

Groups Have No Budgets as NCTN Begins Work March 1

Two years ago, NCI officials made a promise to increase the budget of the cooperative groups program by $25.6 million.

The boost, which was approved by the NCI Board of Scientific Advisors, was part of an effort to revamp the groups inspired by a report from the Institute of Medicine.

On March 1, as the cooperative group program officially becomes the NCI National Clinical Trials Network, new money will not be a part of the transformation. 

Group Chairs: Research in “Crisis”
ASCO Says NCTN Budget Cut by 40 Percent,
Warns of “Dangerous Disruption of Cancer Care”

The chairs of the adult clinical trials groups that make up the NCI National Clinical Trials Network said in a letter that recent budget cuts have triggered a “crisis” in clinical research.

Simultaneously, a statement by the president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Clifford Hudis, amplified the concerns of the group chairs, and pointed to a separate problem in NCI’s transition to the new structure of clinical research: a three-month gap in funding for community oncology clinics engaged in institute-funded research.

photoVarmus Pledges No Funding Gap for NCORP, Blames Snafu on “Unclear Communication”

Following an explosion of criticism, NCI said funding for community oncology clinics would not be interrupted.

In “an open letter to the cancer community” April 10, NCI Director Harold Varmus assured researchers that funding for the NCI Community Clinical Oncology Program sites would continue as it morphs into the NCI Community Oncology Research Program.

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NCI Officials Open to Fine-Tuning Group Budgets As Advocates Chip Away at NCTN’s Facade

NCI officials said they plan to hold a series of meetings with clinical trials group chairs and group financial officers in order to fine-tune the new National Clinical Trials Network.

“We are in the midst of one-on-one meetings with the group chairs and their financial people and their statistical leadership, [meeting] group-by-group [to] look at the numbers as they exist, and try to understand from both sides what that research budget will support and what it won’t support,” said James Doroshow, director of the NCI Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis. 

“Without seeing, from the group perspective, what the resources can and can’t support, it’s hard to know from a system-wide perspective how we will move forward.”

In a telephone conference the institute convened to respond to concern from advocates, Doroshow said, in effect, that the budgets sent to the groups recently didn’t represent fait accompli, and that flexibility was an option.

Over $20 Million Carved Out From Statistical, Operations Centers

The budgets of operations and statistical centers of adult clinical trials groups were cut by about $20.4 million, group chairs say.

The cuts make it difficult for the groups to continue to support ongoing trials and raise questions about the prospects for starting a new generation of trials. 

NCI officials say that, overall, the budget for the groups is staying flat, in part because some of the money is being channeled into 30 sites that received the Lead Academic Participating Site designation. 

LAPS, which are run by cancer centers, will be allowed to charge more for putting patients on studies. 

So where are the cuts?

photoNCI-Funded Clinical Research In Jeopardy, Society Focuses on Value of NCTN Groups

CHICAGO—The consequences of diminishing federal support for cancer research can be measured in the abstracts presented at the 50th annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology that concluded earlier this week.

To illustrate the impact of this drought, ASCO developed a graphic label to identify abstracts stemming from studies that had received U.S. federal funds.

Partnership Points to New Path Forward For Drug Approval and Clinical Research

SWOG earlier this week started to accrue patients to Lung-MAP, a clinical trial for second-line treatment of non-small cell lung cancer.

The trial, also called Lung Cancer Master Protocol or SWOG S1400, uses the patients’ tumor characteristics to select one of five targeted therapies, comparing them with active control in each arm. 

Lung-MAP is funded by a public-private partnership, which combines NCI’s limited funds with those of commercial sponsors, pointing to a new way of pooling resources to conduct faster, more efficient registration trials.

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