The University of Oklahoma’s OU Cancer Institute (OUCI) is partnering with strategic research organization Sarah Cannon Research Institute (SCRI) to expand the school’s early-phase oncology clinical trials program.
Founded nearly 10 years ago, OUCI wanted to expand its work in early-stage trials, said OUCI’s director Robert Mannel, M.D. OUCI is currently conducting more than 100 research projects supported by $20 million in funding from sponsors including the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society.
“What we wanted to do was expand into earlier pharma-sponsored trials—particularly first-in-human phase I or phase Ib—that were directed toward some of our strengths,” Mannel said.
SCRI offers management, regulatory and other support services to sponsors and investigative sites. The company conducts community-based clinical trials in cardiology, oncology, gastroenterology and other therapeutic areas through affiliations with a network of more than 450 physicians in 25 states. OUCI is the first academic affiliation in SCRI’s network.
“We found the ideal partner in Sarah Cannon in that Sarah Cannon has a good working relationship with a number of pharmaceutical industry [people] and [they] actually do a fair number of investigator-initiated trials through their network,” Mannel said.
SCRI will provide research and clinical trials management services to help OUCI with regulatory and safety compliance, as well as technology and tools to improve trial quality and protocol adherence. OUCI physicians and staff will work with SCRI’s physicians and clinical research team, both at the University of Oklahoma and at SCRI’s headquarters in Nashville, Tenn.
“We are pleased to work with OUCI because of their prominent reputation for research in women’s gynecologic cancers,” said SCRI’s CEO Dee Anna Smith. “We’re able to further enhance our research in that area while providing OUCI phase I trials and clinical trials management services that benefit their program.”
As part of its efforts to step up the university’s early-stage work, Mannel said, OUCI has also reworked its internal structure for early-stage trials to be more efficient and effective.
“We’ve convinced the university hierarchy that, in order to be responsive and to be innovative and to have access to the newest agents, we have to not be bogged down in a university bureaucracy that is not responsive and is too slow to get trials activated and initiated for our patients,” he said. “Our vision is what Sarah Cannon’s philosophy is and that is, from when an agreement with a company is made to [when a trial begins should take] six weeks or less. I think that is a very reasonable and realistic goal, and we’re holding ourselves to that. We’re learning from Sarah Cannon to be better at the business end.”
OUCI started its first trial with SCRI in February and hopes to be running at least 35 trials and placing 100 patients annually by the end of the year.