Since day one, UF Health Proton Therapy Institute has had an active clinical research program. As a result, the Institute has published more than 130 research articles in medical journals, documenting proton therapy techniques, some that have become the standard of care, and patient outcomes. With more proton therapy centers opening across the country, not only do more patients have access to the treatment, but also the Institute has more opportunities to collaborate on research.
Collaborative group clinical trials offer advantages for patients and researchers, said Amanda Durrance Prince, RN, BSN, CCRP, Assistant Director of Research Programs & Services. For patients it means access to cutting-edge treatment. For researchers it means advancing what is known about proton therapy at a more rapid pace. “Investigators have a larger pool of eligible patients and so clinical trials can enroll faster. Once enrollment is complete, researchers can analyze results, report their findings and move on to a new clinical trial that will answer the next question,” said Prince.
But what is a clinical trial? Simply put, it is a scientific way to get answers to a specific question about an existing treatment. Some of the questions being asked in proton therapy clinical trials are: Can we reduce the number of treatments needed for effective treatment? Can we intensify treatment for better tumor control? Can we do less damage to normal healthy tissue? Can we improve upon other forms of radiation therapy?
The first joint clinical trial the Institute conducted was in 2009 with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, before it had its own proton therapy capability. Since then, the Institute has participated in multiple clinical trials with the renowned pediatric hospital and with other institutions such as MD Anderson and Mayo Clinic.
Another type of collaborative research is cooperative group trials. There are several large national groups, such as the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group/NRG Oncology and the Children’s Oncology Group, that are funded by the National Cancer Institute. Its members are hundreds of clinical and laboratory investigators who combine their expertise in research. The Institute participates in several of these clinical trials, including the currently open-to-enrollment trial for patients with glioblastoma, an aggressive and the most common primary brain tumor, and another trial open for lung cancer patients.
More recently, proton therapy centers have started their own cooperative groups. The Institute currently participates in the Proton Collaborative Group and leads several studies. For example, Dr. Bradford Hoppe is the Principal Investigator for a proton therapy dose escalation lung cancer study.
So how does all of this benefit patients? It means that they will have the best possible treatment with the latest techniques for the best possible outcome. “At an academic center the standard of care won’t stay standard for long,” said Prince. “The investigators are always trying to come forward, move the treatment forward. Many researchers will look at the problem from different angles at the same time, it’s always moving forward.”
For a list of all open clinical trials, click here.
By Theresa Edwards Makrush