Dartmouth Chosen to Play Key Role in NCI Clinical Trials Network

Dartmouth will serve as a Lead Academic Participating Site in the National Cancer Institute's (NCI) new National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN). The NCTN will improve the speed and efficiency of conducting cancer clinical trials, using select groups of investigators and distributing resources in a more effective way across fewer groups.

"Everyone—patients, providers, and family members—wants to see faster access to new treatments for cancer," said Konstantin H. Dragnev, MD, principal investigator for the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center site. "This new framework will cut the startup time for a clinical trial by 75 percent in some cases. It removes obstacles we used to face for reporting and oversight, so we can now offer therapeutic advances to patients sooner."

Konstantin Dragnev, MD, principal investigator for the National Cancer Institute's (NCI) new National Clinical Trials Network site at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center.
Konstantin Dragnev, MD, principal investigator for the National Cancer Institute's new National Clinical Trials Network site at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center.

As a Lead Academic Participating Site, Norris Cotton Cancer Center will be charged with enhancing participation in NCI randomized phase three clinical trials, the gold standard in cancer research for establishing new treatments. Norris Cotton is one of a select group of only 30 Lead Academic Participating Sites nationwide that will provide scientific leadership in the development of clinical trials, while meeting performance benchmarks for quality clinical research. Dartmouth will oversee involvement and participation from affiliated patient enrollment settings in New Hampshire, Vermont, and other states.

"As a group we can achieve more than we can individually," said Dragnev of the co-operative groups in the nationwide network. "Urban and rural residents can participate in the same study, which expands our ability to include a more diverse population in an individual study. The Dartmouth-led affiliations also mean greater access to new therapies in relatively remote areas served in northern New England."

The NCTN design reflects recommendations from a 2010 Institute of Medicine Report. Its streamlined operations aim to achieve four goals:

  • Faster design, launch, and completion of clinical trials
  • Optimal use of scientific innovations
  • Strategic  prioritization of studies
  • Expanded participation of patients and physicians

Through a consolidation of operational resources, the NCTN untangles behind-the-scenes red tape by using:

  • A common IT data management systems
  • One Central Institutional Review Board
  • Integrated specimen banks and informatics systems

The new network represents an unmatched effort to integrate and streamline the process of cancer clinical trials research," said James Doroshow, MD, deputy director for clinical and translational research at NCI.  "The conduct of NCI-supported trials, which are publicly funded, involves a complex system of designing, reviewing, and initiating studies. The new NCTN replaces a structure that was more than 55 years old."

NCTN employs an inclusive process for generating studies and conducting clinical trials using broad representation from the oncology field, including academic researchers, as well as professional organizations, patients, and advocates.

The Network has combined smaller cooperative groups with specialized foci, such as, pediatric, breast/bowel, or gynecological cancers. These consolidated cooperative groups allow for closer communication and collaboration among researchers doing work in the same area. The newly announced Lead Academic Participating Sites will serve as common outlets for offering trials originating from any of these groups.

"Norris Cotton Cancer Center's selection as a Lead Participating Site affirms our role as a national leader in cancer research," said Mark Israel, MD, director, Norris Cotton Cancer Center. "We are among an elite group of investigators conducting nationally the highest caliber of scientific research."

Research reported in this release is supported by National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number # U10CA180854.

About Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock

Norris Cotton Cancer Center combines advanced cancer research at Dartmouth and the Geisel School of Medicine with patient-centered cancer care provided at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, at Dartmouth-Hitchcock regional locations in Manchester, Nashua, and Keene, NH, and St. Johnsbury, VT, and at 12 partner hospitals throughout New Hampshire and Vermont. It is one of 41 centers nationwide to earn the National Cancer Institute's "Comprehensive Cancer Center" designation. Learn more about Norris Cotton Cancer Center research, programs, and clinical trials online at cancer.dartmouth.edu.

For more information contact Donna Dubuc at (603) 653-3615.