One of the most important ways in which we can continue to find and improve cures for diseases is through clinical trials. The path from laboratory findings to testing discoveries through clinical trials requires significant knowledge, expertise and a clinical research team since it involves patients. Over the last several decades, this path of clinical and translational research has led to significantly improved outcomes and cures for many diseases. For example, the cure rate for pediatric leukemias has improved from less than 10% in the 1960s to now almost 90% by testing hypotheses through clinical oncology trials conducted at academic health systems.
These huge leaps in cure rates that affect the lives of all of us are made possible by the direct efforts of the clinical research team. This team typically consists of an investigator, usually a physician or a clinical researcher, who leads this effort assisted by clinical research nurses and coordinators, regulatory and budgetary staff, data managers, and patients who agree to volunteer to enroll to clinical trials.
A focus of our academic health system is on increasing the number of patients who enroll in clinical trials, especially interventional clinical trials that test new treatments or drugs that can lead to improvement in cure rates. To achieve this important goal, we have invested heavily in clinical and translational research during the last two years by hiring significantly more research staff and investigators focused on clinical trials.
I’m proud to report that in 2021, Ellis Fischel Cancer Center (EFCC) experienced one of its best years over a five-year period in enrolling patients to clinical trials. Sixty-seven patients were enrolled to interventional clinical trials in 2021, as compared to an historical average of 42 patients a year from 2016-2021. This increase represents a 60% growth, as reported at a poster presentation at the recent American Radium Society meeting by Dr. Parvesh Kumar, our associate dean for clinical and translational research and the associate director of clinical sciences for EFCC, who directs our clinical trial enterprise for the MU School of Medicine. This achievement is even more remarkable given that we were still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, which has adversely impacted the enrollment of patients to clinical trials nationally and worldwide!
To recognize the accomplishments of our EFCC investigators and the clinical research staff, and to further develop a culture of sustainable clinical and translational research, a recognition ceremony was recently held under the direction of Dr. Kumar.
Kudos to the following individuals who received special recognition at the ceremony.
Overall Top Enrollers
- Jussuf Kaifi, MD, chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery
- Christos Papageorgiou, MD, associate professor of clinical medicine
- Puja Nistala, MD, chair of the breast cancer disease working group and institutional principal investigator for the Alliance Cooperative Group
- Barbara Gruner, MD, Joy Sylvester & Arthur C. Burns Distinguished Professorship in Pediatric Oncology
- Jennifer Hulett, PhD, assistant professor at the Sinclair School of Nursing
Top Enrollers to Interventional Clinical Trials
- Dr. Puja Nistala
- Dr. Christos Papageorgiou
- Dr. Jennifer Hulett
- Gregory Biedermann, MD
- Katie Murray, DO, assistant professor of urologic surgery and chair of the protocol review and monitoring committee at EFCC
These individuals and teams have done an outstanding job over the last year and are examples of the strong team commitment we have in place at EFCC. I am proud of your work and the strides this makes for EFCC, the MU School of Medicine and for Mizzou. With this level of dedication and talent, we will continue to grow our local, regional, state and national reputation, and our ability to care for even more patients. My sincere thanks for all that you do!
Rick Barohn, MD
Executive Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and Hugh E. and Sarah D. Stephenson Dean, School of Medicine