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Eng stresses need for clinical trial support at cancer forum

Mar. 16, 2023, 9:31 AM

Cathy Eng, MD

by Tom Wilemon

Cathy Eng, MD, the David H. Johnson Professor of Surgical and Medical Oncology, stressed the need for more patient participation and better funding for clinical trials to improve colorectal cancer treatment and outcomes during the White House Cancer Moonshot Colorectal Cancer Forum on Friday, March 10.

She was one of four panelists who discussed efforts to improve treatment outcomes during the White House Cancer Moonshot Colorectal Cancer Forum. While colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers, the disease has many manifestations with different treatment protocols, she noted.

“I think the most important steps moving forward have been primarily focused on personalized medicine or precision oncology,” Eng said. “Precision oncology is wonderful, but we are breaking down colorectal cancer into very small subsets. As a result, we really need patients to enroll in clinical trials. One of the drugs that recently received FDA approval impacts less than 4% of all colorectal cancer patients. We have to screen so many patients to identify those individuals.”

She and the other panelists discussed utilizing telehealth and forging better affiliations between academic medical centers with community oncology practices and pharmaceutical companies to expand access.

The National Cancer Center’s (NCI) National Clinical Trials Network could recruit more hospitals to participate in clinical trials with better funding, she noted.

“The compensation reimbursement is rather low,” Eng said. “It hinders the interest from academic centers and other community centers in participating in clinical trials. As a result, it takes much longer to complete a clinical trial. As a result, pharmaceutical companies also are dissuaded from participating, specifically in NCI-sponsored studies.

“Yet, we want these NCI-sponsored studies because they are the trials that pharmaceutical companies do not necessarily want to run, whether it is about repurposing drugs or whether it is thinking about symptom management and using novel approaches in that way.”

Eng, professor of Medicine, is co-leader of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Research Program at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, director of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Young Adult Cancers Program and director of Strategic Relations.

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