From the Association of Community Cancer Centers, National Harbor, Md.
Clinical trials for cancer therapies might just be the latest victims of the continuing recession. At a gathering of business managers and physicians from hospital-based oncology programs and private practices, word was that some are taking a look at the economics of conducting trials and deciding that it’s time to pare back.
That’s bad news, indeed. There is a crushing need for more evidence on the comparative effectiveness and outcomes of different cancer regimens. The lack of study participants has been a continuing blight on cancer research. The American Cancer Society estimates that fewer than 5% of adults with cancer participates in a clinical trial.
Thomas A. Gallo, executive director of Community Oncology Services in Richmond, Va., said that his physicians feel obligated to participate in trials, but “we don’t make money doing this.” With continuing revenue restraints, “you have to wonder at some point, are physicians going to continue to be willing to lose money to advance the science?”
Dr. Richard B. Reiling, ACCC’s immediate past president, and medical director of the Presbyterian Cancer Center in Charlotte, N.C., said that drug company largesse allows his physicians to barely break even on trials. The surgeon said he believes that community oncologists have definitely cut back on trial participation. But he’s hopeful that stimulus money given to the National Cancer Institute will trickle down.
Physicians don’t delude themselves that they’ll ever make a profit from trials, said oncologist Dr. Edward Braud of Springfield, Ill. But the bleak economy means that more will choose to forgo the cost and hassle.
“That mom and pop shop of three to four medical oncologists who’ve been doing it out of a passion, their accountant is gonna come up to them, add up all the red ink and say you can’t keep doing this,” he said.