The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has designated Atlantic Health System as a National Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP) site of the Atlantic Health Cancer Consortium (AHCC).
Clinical trial enrollment in the AHCC NCORP began Aug. 1. According to Atlantic Health, NCORP, AHCC will help develop and implement NCI cancer prevention, screening, care delivery and treatment studies with leading health care systems across the state.
Atlantic Health System will serve as the lead affiliate for NCORP Community Site activities, providing scientific leadership and central support personnel necessary to accomplish the AHCC NCORP objectives. Atlantic Health System leadership includes experienced cancer investigators in both adult and pediatric cancers with unique expertise that span the cancer continuum.
“As the first National Cancer Institute NCORP site in New Jersey, we will expand the NCORP network coverage by 6.5 million people,” said Dr. Missak Haigentz, medical director of hematology and oncology for Atlantic Health System and principal investigator for AHCC NCORP. “We are proud to partner with these leading health care organizations, each of which has its own unique strengths and patient populations. This will be an exceptional and unprecedented cancer care consortium for New Jersey, which has a diverse population and higher rates of adult and childhood cancer than the nation as a whole,” Haigentz said.
The major health systems and medical centers throughout northern and central New Jersey that make up the AHCC NCORP include:
The incidence of cancer in New Jersey is 477.5 cases per 100,000 versus 441.2 cases per 100,000 nationally. Warren (511.5/100,000) and Monmouth (497.8/100,000) counties have even higher cancer rates, while the pediatric cancer rate for New Jersey is above the national average at 17.1 versus 16.3 cases per 100,000, according to Atlantic Health.
The grant will enable all sites in the AHCC NCORP to participate in additional cutting-edge research from the NCI and National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN), and will significantly enhance access to these trials for cancer patients throughout northern and central New Jersey.
The clinical trials will focus on cancer control, prevention, screening, care delivery, treatment and medical imaging, and many will include a quality-of-life component. These studies will also incorporate the needs of diverse populations and will be integrated with cancer disparities research.
“Ultimately, the AHCC NCORP presents a substantial opportunity to advance scientific understanding in cancer prevention, screening, control, treatment and care delivery research within a large and diverse population,” said Haigentz. “We will also be part of a nationwide integrated network of community-based cancer programs that will collaborate, analyze and share data through the NCORP Research Bases.”
Specific goals of the consortium will be to increase adult and pediatric participation in the NCI and National Clinical Trials Network clinical trials, including members of groups that are currently underrepresented in clinical trials, such as ethnic and racial minorities. The consortium will also collect tissue samples in order to support advances in genomics and molecularly targeted therapies.
Additional goals include enhancing community involvement and the involvement of community-based physicians in cancer control, prevention and care delivery research through a variety of targeted community outreach and engagement efforts, and to support and mentor community oncologists and other medical specialists.
The consortium will also help develop and implement clinically significant studies that incorporate the unique research needs of New Jersey’s diverse population. A special emphasis will be placed on involving non-English speaking individuals.
“Clinical advancements in prevention and treatment approaches must benefit all cancer patients. The best way to make that a reality is to ensure clinical research is conducted in diverse populations—both ethnic and geographic diversity,” said NCI Acting Director Dr. Douglas Lowy. “Communities of color and rural communities face disadvantages in access to cutting-edge cancer care. We believe that clinical trials provide access to high quality cancer care. NCORP enables us to make this available to more communities.”
NCI grants went to 32 Community Sites and 14 Minority/Underserved Community Sites, who have assembled more than 1,000 affiliates across the country to carry out cancer research. The NCORP network now covers 44 states, Washington, D.C., and the territories of Puerto Rico and Guam—the largest geographic coverage in the program’s history.e