Siteman Cancer Center awarded $7.8 million to expand clinical trials access

Washington University physicians to play leadership role in designing innovative NCI network trials

Siteman Cancer Center
Physicians at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have been awarded a $7.8 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to play a leading role in designing, conducting and enrolling patients in clinical trials through the NCI’s National Clinical Trials Network. (Photo: Huy Mach/School of Medicine)

Physicians at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have been awarded a six-year, $7.8 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to play a leading role in designing, conducting and enrolling patients in clinical trials through the NCI’s National Clinical Trials Network.

The funding acknowledges Siteman’s continued role as a Lead Academic Participating Site in the National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN). This designation recognizes Siteman’s ability to enroll large numbers of patients in NCI network trials and its scientific leadership in designing and carrying out cancer clinical trials.

Across the United States and Canada, about 20,000 patients are enrolled annually in NCTN trials, including hundreds at Siteman. The network is made up of four collaborative groups that conduct cancer clinical trials in adults, one group that conducts cancer clinical trials in children and a Canadian group. The network integrates and streamlines the development of cancer clinical trials. By collaborating, the network groups can enroll significant numbers of patients in trials, even for rare cancers, and share resources, which reduces the costs of conducting trials.

With the new funding, Siteman will be one of 32 U.S. institutions – most of them NCI-designated cancer centers – to be named a Lead Academic Participating Site in the NCI trials network, and the only such site in Missouri, Kansas and southern Illinois. Siteman was first selected as an inaugural lead academic site in 2014, when NCI reorganized its clinical trials network.

“Siteman Cancer Center has a strong reputation – regionally and nationally – for cancer clinical trials,” said lead investigator and Washington University medical oncologist Nancy Bartlett, MD, who specializes in treating blood cancers. “As a Lead Academic Participating Site, Washington University physicians will have a leadership role in designing and conducting innovative clinical trials that will help shape the future of cancer care. For patients, this means Siteman offers access to National Clinical Trials Network trials led by Siteman and other leading cancer centers across the U.S. and Canada.”

In addition to Bartlett, the Komen Professor of Medical Oncology in Medicine, co-lead investigators on the grant include Washington University thoracic oncologist Benjamin D. Kozower, MD, a professor of surgery; gynecologic oncologist David G. Mutch, MD, the Ira C. and Judith Gall Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology; radiation oncologist Clifford G. Robinson, MD, an associate professor of radiation oncology; and radiologist Barry A. Siegel, MD, a professor of radiology.

The new funding also is designed to help speed the pace of research as promising findings move from the laboratory into clinical trials. The trials offered through the network are typically late-phase trials that address critical questions related to the diagnosis or treatment of cancer and require the enrollment of patients from multiple sites. The results of such trials often are published in high-impact journals, helping to set the standard of cancer care across North America and around the world.

Among the trials now underway through the network are those evaluating immunotherapies for a variety of cancer types, molecular approaches to diagnosing and treating cancer, and innovative therapies aimed at treating rare cancers.

“Our role in the NCTN gives our researchers and patients access to clinical trials that are on the forefront of cancer research,” Bartlett added. “Through the network’s cooperative groups, Washington University researchers at Siteman attend twice-yearly meetings of specialized cancer experts from across the country to brainstorm about how best to utilize the NCTN to conduct trials that reflect the needs of our patients and are designed to answer potentially practice-changing questions. We have a number of researchers engaged in nearly every disease site committee in the NCTN, taking ideas to the meetings to suggest new clinical trials and important correlative studies.”

This means more trials available for Siteman researchers to enroll their patients in, which is critical in this age of more personalized medicine and specialized treatments; a broader menu of trials makes it more likely there will be one to fit the special circumstances of individual patients, Bartlett added.

Siteman – an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center – is part of Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. While its main location is on the Washington University Medical Campus, the center also has five satellite locations across the St. Louis region. Cancer clinical trials are offered at all Siteman locations.

Learn more by visiting Siteman’s Find a Clinical Trial website.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 1,500 faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is a leader in medical research, teaching and patient care, ranking among the top 10 medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.
Siteman Cancer Center, ranked among the top cancer treatment centers by U.S. News & World Report, also is one of only a few cancer centers to receive the highest rating of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) – “exceptional.” Comprising the cancer research, prevention and treatment programs of Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Siteman treats adults at six locations and partners with St. Louis Children’s Hospital in the treatment of pediatric patients, through Siteman Kids at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Siteman is Missouri and Southern Illinois’ only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center and only member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. Through the Siteman Cancer Network, Siteman Cancer Center works with regional medical centers to improve the health and well-being of people and communities by expanding access to cancer prevention and control strategies, clinical studies and genomic and genetic testing, all aimed at reducing the burden of cancer.