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Federal cancer research network is faulted

Bloomberg News / April 16, 2010

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NEW YORK — The government’s cancer research network is “approaching a state of crisis’’ as waste and inefficiency cause 40 percent of late-stage trials it funds to be abandoned before completion, according to a report released yesterday.

The government-funded National Cancer Institute’s clinical trials group isn’t able to effectively study the benefits of new and current treatments, according to the analysis by the Institute of Medicine. The report’s recommendations include increasing funding for cancer studies, simplifying the process of designing trials, and offering incentives for doctors to do such research.

The institute’s network of cancer centers and doctors tests cancer treatments on 25,000 patients a year, with an annual budget of about $145 million, the report said. Cancer kills about 560,000 people in the United States each year, the second-biggest cause of death behind heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“If the clinical trial system does not improve its efficiency and effectiveness, the introduction of new treatments for cancer will be delayed and patient lives will be lost unnecessarily,’’ the report said.

The process for carrying out trials has become too complex and can take more than two years to design and initiate clinical trials, the report said.