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NCORP Growth, Goals and Achievements Highlighted at Annual Meeting

Posted: August 29, 2019

The expanded geographic coverage of the NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP), new goals and ongoing research achievements were highlighted at the 2019 annual meeting in late August.

NCORP program staff, investigators and administrators met in Bethesda, Maryland, to share program updates, best practices, and scientific advances in areas such as childhood, adolescent and young adult and geriatric cancer research, accrual strategies, biorepositories, and broadening eligibility criteria.

Acting NCI Director Douglas Lowy, MD, said he really appreciated what the NCORP sites are doing. “Your dedication in conducting trials and referring patients for prevention, screening and treatment, are important and are providing high quality care for patients in the community where the vast majority of patients receive their care,” he said.

While the program is going extraordinarily well and the important aspect of cancer care delivery has come to fruition, the amount of funding is not sufficient, though it did increase by $30 million this year, Dr. Lowy said. He noted that just under 50% of patients accrued in the MATCH cancer treatment trial were from NCORP sites, and NCORP is participating in other important trials, such as FORTE and TMIST, both trials of screening, and the New Onset Diabetes (NOD) project. Another effort he mentioned was the Early Onset Malignancy initiative which is aimed at addressing the imbalance in previous genomic research where underrepresented minorities were underrepresented. He said he hopes after enough patients are accrued NCI can say it has information for these cancers in underrepresented minorities comparable to what is in The Cancer Genome Atlas.

Reviewing the previous year, NCORP Director Worta McCaskill-Stevens, MD, told meeting attendees that the new round of grantees is standing on the shoulders of the first 5 years of NCORP accomplishments. “If we take the wisdom of the first 5 years, we can move towards our goal of further providing to our cancer care networks,” she said.

It took a lot of work to make NCORP a reality, Dr. McCaskill-Stevens said, including: seven Research Bases assembling clinicians, scientists, and administrators to develop and support NCORP’s research agenda; 34 Community Sites and 12 Minority/Underserved Sites committed to providing cancer clinical research in their communities; partnerships at the community, institutional and government levels; and individuals willing to embark on a journey into clinical trials for improved outcomes for themselves and others.

Deborah Winn, PhD, acting director, NCI Division of Cancer Prevention, called NCORP one of NCI’s most important and largest initiatives, with incredible strengths in prevention, treatment trials, disparities research and making sure the entire U.S. is represented within NCORP. Paul Jacobsen, PhD, noted that outreach to rural populations is an important focus of NCI programs. The CCDR component has received strong support from NCI leadership, he said, calling NCORP the premiere laboratory in the U.S. for generating findings with broad implementation, particularly in representing minority and underserved populations. Ann Geiger, PhD, lead scientist for the NCORP CCDR portfolio, said there has been a rapid acceleration of CCDR studies and the NCORP sites have exceeded expectations, adding that the NCORP network is one of the only places where this data can be gathered.

Keynote speakers covered the age continuum facing cancer researchers. Edward Anders Kolb, MD, Vice Chairman for Research in the Department of Pediatrics, Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University and co-principal investigator of the Nemours NCORP, gave the pediatric NCORP perspective on adolescent and young adult oncology clinical trials. This was followed by a discussion on clinical trials for adolescents and young adults led by four principal investigators whose NCORP sites are dedicated to studying childhood cancers: Mike Roth, MD, Children’s Oncology Group; Wade Kyono, MD, Hawaii MU NCORP; Ann Marie Langevin, MD, Texas Pediatric MU NCORP; and Khalid Matin, MD, VCU Massey Cancer Center MU NCORP.

On the opposite end of the age spectrum, Lodovico Balducci, MD, Senior Emeritus at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, who has been called the “father of geriatrics,” spoke about cancer in the “oldest old” and opportunities for geriatric oncology in NCORP. This was followed by a panel discussion with contributions from Judith Hopkins, MD, of Southeast Clinical Oncology Research (SCOR) Consortium NCORP, Heidi Klepin, MD, of Wake Forest NCORP Research Base, and Aminah Jatoi, MD, of Alliance NCORP Research Base. The symposium was inspired by the legacy of NCORP Principal Investigator Arti Hurria, MD, who died tragically in 2018. Dr. Klepin called NCORP “uniquely suited” to test implementation of geriatric assessments (GA), Dr. Hurria’s professional focus, in the areas of directed treatment for the frail elderly and GA-guided supportive care, care delivery, tolerance and efficacy of standard therapies among the elderly.

Principal investigators at four new NCORP sites talked about their plans for participating in the network: Gary Doolittle, MD, Kansas MCA Rural NCORP; Missak Haigentz, MD, Atlantic Health NCORP; Scott C. Remick, MD, MaineHealth NCORP; and Lucile Adams-Campbell, MD, National Capital Area MU NCORP. Key benefits they sited as new member sites were opportunities for new collaborations and increasing minority accruals.

Edward Kim, MD, talked about the progress that has been made in broadening eligibility criteria in cancer clinical trials since 2015, during which time a 90-person working group representing patient advocates, pharma, NIH, nurses, pharmacists, and others, has published a series of six papers. He estimated that 19 of 20 patients currently do not enroll in cancer clinical trials, and there is an average of 35 eligibility criteria per trial.

Recognition and Awards Given

The program recognized multiple achievements by the community-based research network investigators, administrators, and sites overall. The NCORP’s most prestigious award, the Harry Hynes Award for outstanding contributions to clinical trials and community research, was presented to Philip J. Stella, MD, Principal Investigator, Michigan Cancer Research Consortium NCORP.

The year’s top Administrator Awards for performance were presented to: Michele Lacy, RN, of the Metro-Minnesota Community Oncology Research Consortium NCORP, and Eileen Mederos, RN, of the Gulf South Minority/Underserved Clinical Trials Network NCORP-MU.

The Physician Awards for accruals between August 1, 2018 and April 30, 2019 were presented for the categories of more than 40, 20-39, and 10-19. The top Treatment Trial Accrual awards went to: Adedayo A. Onitilo, MD, Wisconsin NCORP; Scott E. Delacroix, Jr., MD, Gulf South Minority/Underserved Clinical Trials Network NCORP-MU; and Jessie R. Gills, MD, Gulf South Minority/Underserved Clinical Trials Network NCORP-MU.

The top Cancer Control Trial Accrual awards went to: Kendrith M. Rowland, Jr, MD, of the Carle Cancer Center NCORP; Mignonne Morrell, MD, of the Gulf South Minority/Underserved Clinical Trials Network NCORP-MU; Howard A. Zaren, MD, of the Georgia NCORP; and Amarinthia (Amy) Curtis, MD, of the Southeast Clinical Oncology Research Consortium NCORP.