Cancer patients in Nebraska and Iowa will be able to take part in clinical trials run out of Penn State, Purdue or Northwestern now that 11 Big Ten Conference schools have teamed up to battle cancer.
The goal of the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium is to tap the expertise of cancer experts at the member universities and work together on clinical trials. Leaders from the universities' cancer centers formally kicked off the consortium at a meeting in Chicago earlier this month.
“The number of clinical trials at any one center is limited, and there's a finite number of patients,” said Dr. Julie Vose, the chief of hematology/oncology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The consortium, she said, will offer patients new treatments that otherwise would be unavailable to them.
Researchers need a large number of patients in a trial to produce statistically significant results, Vose said, and the arrangement will allow them to access a larger pool of people with uncommon cancers.
Representatives from member schools will tell one another about trials they're starting through regular teleconferences and meetings, she said.
“UNMC is proud to be a part of this consortium, which is rich in both scientific research expertise and superior clinical care for patients,” said Dr. Ken Cowan, director of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, formerly called the Eppley Cancer Center.
Cowan said cancer specialists at member schools would work to develop new tools to detect cancers earlier and seek more effective therapies to treat each patient's specific tumor.
Some researchers at the member schools have worked together before, said Nicole Fawcett, a spokeswoman for the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Dr. Steven Rosen, director of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at Northwestern University, came up with the idea while watching the Big Ten Network.
He told an interviewer that he thought if the Big Ten image could be used for athletics, why couldn't it be used “for something as meaningful as cancer care?” He said leaders at other schools embraced the idea.
The consortium also will give junior faculty and fellows the chance to write, conduct and complete trials, which wouldn't normally be done for young investigators at a single institution or on a national level.
Vose said UNMC already collaborates on clinical trials with the Mayo Clinic, MD Anderson Cancer Center and the University of Iowa, enhancing the research and opening up more clinical sites.
UNMC is well-known for its work in lymphoma, Vose said. Cancer centers at other Big Ten schools “might be well-known for breast cancer or colon cancer,” she said.
“It's just a way to expand the opportunities for patients in those different areas.”
These universities and cancer centers make up the consortium:
• Indiana University (Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center)
• Northwestern University (Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center)
• Penn State University (Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute)
• Purdue University (Purdue University Center for Cancer Research)
• Rutgers University (The Cancer Institute of New Jersey becomes part of Rutgers on July 1)
• University of Illinois (University of Illinois Cancer Center)
• University of Iowa (Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center)
• University of Michigan (University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center)
• University of Minnesota (Masonic Cancer Center)
• University of Nebraska (Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center)
• University of Wisconsin (Carbone Comprehensive Cancer Center)
The Indianapolis-based Hoosier Oncology Group will serve as the group's administrative headquarters.
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