Clinical Trials Key to National Cancer Institute Designation

By Marty Trieschmann

Though they often operate quietly behind the scenes, clinical trial programs are essential in moving new cancer treatments from the lab into the clinic to help patients. Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy is just one example.

NCI sets strict requirements for the way clinical trial programs are organized and operate. In its pursuit of designation, the Clinical Trials Office at UAMS is in constant continuous improvement mode.

The office has grown from a staff of 35 to 60 in the past two years, with plans to add another 10 people in the coming year. The team is busier than ever, managing 260 active trials to date. Six first-in-human Phase 1 trials are currently underway in the newly dedicated Phase 1 Clinical Trial Unit including trials for myeloma.

“There is great institutional support here at UAMS for cancer clinical trials,” said Michael Birrer, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute and principal investigator of 16 clinical trials himself.

The office is working closely with UAMS’ eight regional campuses and the Rural Research Network to improve access to clinical trials across the state, especially among rural, underserved populations in Arkansas.

“We have a great team in place that collaborates really well,” said Matt Kovak, director of the Clinical Trials Office. “We’re ready to scale up in-patient enrollment and improve access to trials all over the state.”