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May 30, 2014

Patient Group Issues Roadmap for Accelerating Cancer R&D

  • A national patient advocacy group today issued a series of proposals designed to speed up cancer R&D, and launched a coalition that will work to implement the agenda.

    The National Patient Advocate Foundation (NPAF) disclosed the proposals in a “white paper” study prepared in consultation with biomedical researchers, medical innovators, patient advocates, clinicians and policymakers.

    Securing the Future of Innovation in Cancer Treatment is intended to address challenges to cancer R&D that NPAF blames for the average nine-year development timeframe, from discovery to approval, for new cancer drugs, vs. as little as two years for HIV therapies.

    According to NPAF, challenges to cancer R&D include a nearly 20% drop in government-funded basic research since 2010, a steady decline in venture capital investment in biotechnology since 2007, and “logistical, bureaucratic, institutional and regulatory obstacles” that add years to scientific discovery and drug development. Securing the Future identified those obstacles as added steps and inefficiencies in the clinical trials process, duplicative and conflicting standards, auditing mandates, increasing regulatory requirements and delays in review decisions. 

    “This report represents a wakeup call for all Americans and is intended to spark a national movement to make cancer innovation a national priority,” said Nancy Davenport-Ennis, NPAF’s founder and chairman, in a statement.

    Securing the Future attributes the disparity in development timeframes for HIV and cancer drugs to stable government funding for HIV R&D, augmented by private sector and non-profit stakeholders, and quicker FDA reviews for new drugs through programs like Fast Track, Breakthrough Therapy, Accelerated Approval, and Priority Review.

    Making all of these possible, the white paper stated, was “a group of passionate, educated stakeholders from the advocacy community, provider community, elected and unelected government officials, media and many others, [who] took the time to understand the illness and what needed to be done, and utilized that knowledge to successfully lobby the federal government to work toward, and fund, the elimination of this disease.”

    NPAF envisions a similar grassroots effort for cancer funding.

    To advocate for the white paper’s agenda, NPAF said it will launch Project Innovation, a coalition of cancer patients, family members and others who will promote cancer R&D through three policy principles of “Pillars of Innovation”: Reducing logistical obstacles, boosting funding for cancer research through “policies that eliminate uncertainty for innovators and investors,” and improving communication and coordination between providers and patients.

    The coalition plans to use its website, as well as digital advertising and multiple means of sharing information. The white paper envisions Project Innovation hosting regional town halls, workshops and advocacy forums across the country; scheduling meetings with federal and state lawmakers and regulators; and informing interested citizens and patient advocate volunteers so they can emerge as advocates for cancer innovation in their communities.

    “Project Innovation will tap the energy and ideas of cancer patients, advocates, healthcare professionals, biomedical researchers, medical innovators, payers, policymakers and 21st century thinkers on ways to move cancer discovery forward,” according to NPAF.

    One key objective of Project Innovation, NPAF said, will be to shorten the average 2.5 years it takes to open a Phase III clinical trial sponsored through NIH’s National Cancer Institute Clinical trials Cooperative Group Program. Some trials have taken more than four years to activate.

    The white paper also called for allowing patients expedited access to innovative therapies before they are approved for general use, and developing a centralized, nationwide hub from which data relating to cancer trials can be accessed and shared to accelerate research results.

    Better communication and coordination should raise the 2%–5% percentage range of adult patients who now enroll in cancer clinical trials, according to Securing the Future.


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