The NCI has awarded 53 grants totaling $93 million annually for 5 years to researchers, academic institutions, and oncologists participating in a national community-based clinical trial network aimed at boosting the participation of minority and underserved populations in cancer research.

The NCI has awarded 53 grants totaling $93 million per year through its Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP), a national network of researchers, oncologists, and academic institutions conducting community-based clinical trials and cancer care delivery research.

The 5-year grants to research organizations fall into three categories: seven research bases, large centers that will act as hubs for the network and provide overall administration, data management, scientific leadership, and regulatory compliance; 34 community sites, which will enroll patients in clinical trials; and 12 minority/ underserved community sites that will also enroll patients in trials but must serve at least 30% racial/ethnic minorities or rural residents. All community sites must each accrue at least 80 new participants annually to clinical trials conducted by research bases and the NCI National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN).

By helping community oncologists and patients access NCI-approved clinical trials, NCORP may help advance research into cancers that disproportionately affect racial/ethnic minorities and other underserved populations, says NCORP director Worta McCaskill-Stevens, MD. Research will also focus on cancer care delivery, including the impact of social, technological, behavioral, and other factors on patient outcomes, access to care, costs, and quality of life.

“NCORP will enhance efforts to increase the participation of underrepresented groups in clinical trials,” she says. “It will integrate research questions into clinical trials and cancer-care delivery studies to expand the evidence base related to cancer health disparities.”

NCORP brings two earlier community-based NCI programs under one umbrella: the Community Clinical Oncology Program (a partnership of community-based practices and academic institutions) and the Community Cancer Centers Program (a national trial network of community hospital cancer centers).

The new program will focus on several key areas of cancer research, says McCaskill-Stevens, including reducing the incidence and comorbidity of cancer and its treatment; screening studies to evaluate early-diagnosis interventions and cancer recurrence; and health-related quality of life or patient-reported outcomes research to identify secondary endpoints in NCTN treatment trials.

Most sites funded under the two earlier community programs will be incorporated into NCORP. However, the NCI has allocated about $12 million in the first year of funding to ensure a smooth transition for all ongoing clinical trials, including those that do not receive NCORP funding.

“NCI will work with research bases that will not continue in NCORP to determine the funding required to complete trials that are actively enrolling patients or have not had sufficient time to reach their primary endpoint,” says McCaskill-Stevens. “NCI will support the data analysis in preparation for formal reporting and publication of data.”