The University of California Hematologic Malignancies Consortium:
Serving Californians with blood cancers while advancing blood cancer treatment
A major barrier to progress in cancer treatment is the difficulty in identifying and enrolling adequate numbers of patients with rare cancers on clinical trials. Adequate trial enrollment and completion is necessary to move novel therapies into routine use to improve response rates, remission durations, and cure rates for all cancer patients. Completing clinical trials in a reasonable period of time is especially challenging for blood cancers as the incidence and prevalence of individual blood cancers is relatively low. The issue is compounded by a recent rapid increase in new drugs making it more difficult to validate their effectiveness in combinations and across ethnic and racial groups whose response to and tolerance of treatment often varies. Historically, University of California (UC) cancer centers, institutions with world leaders in laboratory and clinical research in cancer, have not collaborated in clinical trial research causing many studies of promising new therapies to fail due to lack of adequate patient accrual at a single UC site.
In 2014, academic clinical investigators across the five UC cancer centers founded an unfunded research consortium called the University of California Hematologic Malignancies Consortium (UCHMC) to perform multi-center physician designed and conducted clinical trials to improve the care for Californians with blood cancers and to change world wide practice for treating blood cancers. The UCHMC is a collaborative clinical trial network of blood cancer experts across the UC cancer centers that is unifying and harmonizing clinical research to bring novel therapies to all the people of California.
The initial goals of the consortium have been achieved as we have demonstrated that efficient collaboration across UC centers to perform clinical trials is possible. The UCHMC has also demonstrated its ability to increase pharmaceutical funding of California based trials by acquiring significant funding for 6 clinical trials representing financial support from over 10 individual companies. The UCHMC achievements thus far are only a fraction of what it might achieve, however infrastructure development is needed to realize these goals. Further infrastructure development will allow the UCHMC to become more efficient and effective in clinical trial conduct thus increasing pharmaceutical company interest in collaboration with the 5 UC Cancer Centers and enhancing the competiveness of the UC system for national and philanthropic research funding.
The consortium has also shown that it is able to serve patients of all ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds. For example, enrollment on a trial for newly diagnosed acute lymphoblastic leukemia consists of >50% Hispanic patients far higher than the <10% typically reported on clinical trials for this disease. The consortium views the racial and ethnic diversity of patients in California as a unique opportunity to understand the efficacy and toxicity of therapies in populations typically underrepresented on clinical trials.
Finally, the consortium increases the potential impact and reputation of the UC cancer cancers and California through promotion of cutting-edge research, translation of UC-based lab discoveries into UC-led clinical trials, education of trainees in clinical care and research in blood cancers, recruitment of the best academic talent from around the country, and improved retention of talented laboratory and clinical researchers. With further growth, the consortium has the potential to employ more Californians, serve more Californians, and exceed the reputation and impact made by cancer centers in other states and countries that are receiving state funding to support clinical and basic cancer research.