Introducing the ACS Clinical Research Program of the Alliance

In last month’s Bulletin, Monica M. Bertagnolli, MD, FACS, described how the American College of Surgeons Oncology Group (ACOSOG) recently merged with Cancer and Leukemia Group B (CALGB) and North Central Cancer Treatment Group (NCCTG) to form the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology.* As Dr. Bertagnolli explained, the Alliance has five programs, including a new program known as the American College of Surgeons Clinical Research Program (ACS CRP). ACS CRP will work to reduce the impact of cancer by validating and disseminating strategies for its prevention and treatment.

The members of the ACS CRP intend to achieve their mission by increasing surgeon participation in the Alliance and by increasing meaningful interactions between the Alliance and the College’s Cancer Programs. The four committees of the ACS CRP have unique goals and activities.

  • The Member Services Committee, led by Mitch Posner, MD, FACS, Chair, and Lee Wilke, MD, FACS, Vice-Chair, will engage a broad oncology community in cancer clinical trials. The committee will work with the Alliance Membership Committee to encourage ACOSOG members to join the Alliance as either members or affiliates. The committee will also work with leaders of the newly funded ACOSOG Community Clinical Oncology Program Research Base and the Commission on Cancer to recruit new surgeons and community oncologists to the Alliance. This committee will also assist in defining criteria for surgeon credentialing in trials where surgery plays a vital role, and they will conduct quality assurance and quality control activities for the Alliance. Surgeons from diverse specialties make up the Member Services Committee, thereby ensuring that surgical standards meet the broad needs of the group with respect to surgical standards.
  • The Education Committee, with Henry Kuerer, MD, FACS, as Chair, and Judy Boughey, MB, BCh, FACS, as Vice-Chair, will work to reduce the time between trials reporting to practice implementation. Through a coordinated effort with both the ACS Division of Education and the Commission on Cancer’s Education Committee, this committee will implement a dissemination program that should increase awareness among clinicians of new trial findings. Programs will be developed for presentation at national meetings, such as the ACS Clinical Congress and specialty society meetings, as well as for written communication vehicles, such as the Bulletin and ACS NewsScope.
    When trial results support the introduction of new technologies or techniques, the committee will work with the ACS Division of Education to make optimal use of existing infrastructures, such as the ACS Accredited Education Institutes. Coursework and text that will facilitate clinical trials participation by clinicians and allied health staff will be developed and offered to increase trial participation.
  • The Cancer Care Standards Development Committee, led by James Fleshman, MD, FACS, Chair, and Leslie Kohman, MD, FACS, Vice-Chair, is charged with developing “best cancer practices” and standardizing cancer practices across the Alliance and the ACS Cancer Programs. The committee will start the process of standardization by collaborating with ACS Cancer Programs, including the Commission on Cancer Quality Measures Committee (CP3R). This activity will facilitate the integration of ACS standards and accreditation criteria into clinical trials and Alliance standards. One project under way is the coordination of existing ACS Cancer Program standards (including the American Joint Committee on Cancer Staging and the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers accreditation standards); existing CALGB, NCCTG, and ACOSOG data elements; along with NCI Common Data Elements, into a single data set for the new Medidata Rave clinical trials database. This process will speed the transition of clinical trials results into practice through common language and common metrics.
    The Cancer Care Standards Committee will also work closely with other ACS CRP committees to evaluate technical standards and surgical quality assurance and quality control standard operating procedures that have evolved in the context of Alliance cancer trials, with the goal of transferring these procedures into credentialing activities within ACS Cancer Programs.
  • The Research Development Committee, led by Stephen Edge, MD, FACS, Chair, and Barbara Pockaj, MD, FACS, Vice-Chair, will create novel research studies on comparative effectiveness and emerging technologies. This committee will facilitate research conducted by the Alliance by providing data essential for optimal study design and accrual strategies. The primary resource for this effort will be the National Cancer Data Base (NCDB); however, these data will be supplemented as necessary with other existing data sources.

The Committee will use these sources to identify care patterns in both common and rare cancer types, which will assist in design of clinical trials and assist the Alliance in identifying institutions with case volumes that permit rapid study accrual. It is envisioned that the ACS CRP will develop unique research programs, including projects centered on comparative effectiveness research and emerging technology research. The NCDB can serve as a valuable and unique opportunity for the development of a comparative effectiveness research program and for monitoring implementation of new best practices based on clinical trial evidence from the Alliance.

The Alliance continues to gain momentum. At its inaugural meeting in Chicago, IL, in November, more than 950 attendees, representing 45 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and two Canadian provinces, chose from more than 60 scientific sessions. Among the meeting’s most popular activities were a networking event and a poster session. The 2012 Spring Committee Meetings of the Alliance will be held March 15–17, 2012, at the InterContinental Chicago O’Hare in Rosemont, IL.

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