Federal Cancer Research Is 'At A Breaking Point,' IOM Study Finds

Bloomberg: "The government's cancer research network is 'approaching a state of crisis' as waste and inefficiency cause 40 percent of late-stage trials it funds to be abandoned before completion, according to a report released yesterday. The government-funded National Cancer Institute's clinical trials group isn't able to effectively study the benefits of new and current treatments, according to the analysis by the Institute of Medicine. ... The Institute recommended the NCI consolidate administrative operations, streamline government oversight of clinical trials, develop more efficient trial design, and create incentives for investigators to participate in studies. Health insurers should also pay for the cost of non-experimental care that is part of the clinical trial, such as additional scans, lab tests and physician visits" (Pettypiece, 4/16). 

The Wall Street Journal reports that the clinical trials program includes more than 3,100 institutions. "On the science side, it says the program should mandate the submission of tissue and blood samples from study participants to central repositories and that any resulting data should have no intellectual property restrictions. ... [The American Society of Clinical Oncologists] today is releasing its own survey in the Journal of Oncology Practice that found one-third of NCI cooperative member sites plan to limit participation in government-funded trials due to poor reimbursement. Instead, they're turning to industry-sponsored studies" (Hobson, 4/15).

NPR's Shots Blog: The IOM said the NCI "program is starved for funds.The experts say that budget needs to double by 2015. The current Cooperative Group budget is $250 million a year -- less than three percent of the National Cancer Institute's annual budget -- to do studies involving 25,000 cancer patients a year. ... Many of the questions studied by the Cooperative Group are not likely to be tackled by pharma or biotech companies, the IOM panel says. Commercial firms are mainly interested in studies that will get their drugs approved, not in research that compares, say, different combinations of drugs. ... The panel also says it takes too long -- two years on average -- for the Cooperative Group to design, approve and launch a study. By the time a trial gets underway, the questions it was designed to answer are often outdated" (Knox, 4/15).

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