Trial Management, Networks, Staff Retention Spark Interest at CRI Meeting

The Association of American Cancer Institutes’ (AACI) Clinical Research Initiative (CRI) convened its ninth annual meeting in July in Chicago. The 2017 meeting covered two full days and was attended by more than 325 clinical research office leaders, medical directors, cancer center administrators, representatives from the NCI and industry.

The AACI CRI annual meeting is designed to improve the clinical research process, understand the global impact of conducting clinical research in the United States and abroad, discuss trends in clinical trials safety and compliance, and recommend policies to promote staff retention at the cancer centers. To help achieve these goals the meeting offers many opportunities to share ideas including panel discussions, breakout sessions led by peers and poster presentations.

The meeting commenced with an inspiring keynote talk entitled, “Supporting Patients through Clinical Trials and Beyond”, by Anna C. Beck, MD, who shared her unique perspective as both a cancer survivor and cancer physician. Dr. Beck described how her personal struggle with cancer has altered her views about her career path and how she is supporting cancer patients throughout their disease trajectory. She also delved into the impact that her experience has had on her research and clinical leadership at Huntsman Cancer Institute.

Immediately following Dr. Beck’s talk, a panel discussion tackled the challenges and solutions involved in managing clinical trials at affiliate sites. Presenters from three AACI academic cancer centers identified reasons for using affiliate trial sites, the criteria for selecting these sites, and the importance of building relationships and evaluating a site’s readiness for trial participation and ways to monitor trial compliance and facilitate rapid data collection.

In a session focused on developing investigator-initiated trials (IIT), panelists explored challenges such as using multiple electronic data capture systems, bridging financial gaps when pilot or donor funding is limited, and navigating complex industry and clinical research organizational structures for junior faculty wanting to develop and conduct IITs.

Another topic of interest was staff recruitment and retention. Panelists from three AACI cancer centers presented insights into how their institutions have addressed staffing challenges, including using surveys to gauge employee satisfaction, analyzing workload metrics data, and assessing various staffing models.

Addressing recent revisions to NCI’s Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG) guidelines and P30 grant renewals, the panel included representatives from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and two AACI cancer centers who had recently submitted their CCSG applications. A representative from NCI also talked about steps NCI is taking to use information from its Clinical Trials Reporting Program to complete “data table 4”, part of the submission requirements for P30 grant renewals.

Another panel session focused on obstacles to developing centralized coverage analysis for multi-site clinical trials, including payer’s interpretation of the rules for trial coverage, which can make developing an accurate trial billing grid and trial budget more complex. Best practices for developing a trial billing grid from the trial coverage analysis include utilizing the cancer center’s electronic medical record, clinical trials billing applications and trial consent form language to enhance the work flow required for ensuring compliance and accurate billing.

Lastly, a panel discussion looked at how centers are minimizing non-value added activities, e.g., trial site initiation visits, serious adverse event reporting of nonreportable events required by trials sponsors, and the use of multiple sponsor portals for retrieving trial documents.

Meeting attendees also participated in a poster session featuring 29 poster displays, and abstract winners from three cancer centers presented their work on innovative approaches to regulatory operations, review of a new workload assessment tool, and how utilizing data from past trials can lead to realistic study budgets. A list of abstract winners and abstract titles, along with all submitted abstracts, are available on our website.

This year’s meeting breakout sessions topics included:
• A Deeper Dive into Managing Community and Affiliate Trials Sites
• Enhancing the Relationship between Medical Directors and CTO Administrative Directors
• Operationalizing Complex Clinical Trials Designs
• Research Center and Industry Staff Turnover and its Impact on Quality Data Capture
• The Burden of FDA Inspections

Next year’s 10th Annual CRI Meeting will be held July 11 - 12, in Chicago.