The Oncology R&D unit of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has entered into a new research alliance agreement with US Oncology, a nationwide cancer care company that supports a community-based research network specializing in phase I through IV oncology clinical trials. The non-exclusive collaboration is aimed at improving the execution time of GSK’s oncology clinical trials.
Under the agreement, scientists and oncologists within US Oncology will provide patient-oriented insight to clinical researchers at GSK, while US Oncology researchers will also have an opportunity to critique the design of future GSK cancer trials. The collective feedback will be used to better develop cancer trials that will directly address some of the most pressing patient needs.
US Oncology investigators have conducted more than 650 trials in the last 10 years and have enrolled more than 38,500 patients into clinical trials. GSK is currently conducting more than 100 oncology trials in phases I through IV.
“You have to make sure that you have your trials in the places where the patients who are eligible are and make sure that that trial is not so much work that the physician just doesn’t have the time. And that is what these kinds of agreements do. They make sure our trials are user-friendly,” said Jeffrey Bloss, M.D., vice president of U.S. Clinical Development and Medical Affairs at GSK Oncology.
The US Oncology network, which has already been working with GSK on clinical trials, consists of more than 1,300 physicians with more than half participating in clinical research. The network of oncologists at US Oncology sees, on average, more than 50,000 patients each month.
“If you are a physician and you have 50 patients to see in a day and it takes you three or fours hours to get a patient into a trial, you are probably not going to do that,” Bloss said. “But if you have a system in place where getting the patient on a trial for the best quality of care as possible can be done in relatively the same time frame as not putting them on a trial, you are more apt to do that. I think that what we have to do is not make it onerous for physicians so they can do what their preference is: put a patient on a trial that provides them the hope of something better than the standard of care.”
Bloss discounts some figures that show oncology trials have low patient enrollment rates because those statistics may not take into account that a cancer patient might be not be eligible for a trial.
“We have no doubt that this alliance agreement with US Oncology will help us advance clinical research,” Bloss said. “By sharing some of our research efforts with the nation’s largest network of leading physicians and scientists, we hope to improve trial design, and potentially, enroll ment. Ultimately, our collective goal is to find answers more quickly for patients, and to design trials and studies in a manner that hopefully will bring maximum benefit to them.”
US Oncology wants to take those insights from the treatment room back to the laboratory where future medicines are being developed.
“In the emerging era of personalized medicine, we are pleased to announce our strategic alliance with GSK where both GSK and US Oncology have an equal commitment to streamlining the clinical development process and matching the right patient to the right trial at the right time,” said Steve Smith, vice president and general manager of Research and Personalized Science at US Oncology.
GSK has oncology research collaborations with more than 160 cancer centers. Bloss said GSK oncology has agreements similar to the one with US Oncology with other cancer centers such as Sarah Cannon Cancer Center in Nashville and Accelerated Community Oncology Research Network in Memphis.
“We are negotiating several other agreements with major academic centers that have these community networks where there are large volumes of patients interested in clinical trials,” Bloss said.
With these agreements, GSK hopes to expand its geographical reach to be “getting good clinical trial representation for our clinical trials across the whole United States,” Bloss said.