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UC Cancer Consortium to Pool Resources, Talent and Data

The Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego is among five UC centers that have pledged to pool brainpower on cancer research, clinical trials and harnessing big data for care.

The UC Cancer Consortium, which was announced Sept. 11, calls for a new model of cancer research and treatment in which the best minds collaborate no matter where they’re located in the state.

“You’re starting to see that it’s possible to work together in a seamless way, from clinical trials to cost issues to giving patients access to the best care,” said Dr. Scott Lippman, director of the Moores Cancer Center.

Despite the steady declines in cancer rates over the last 20 years, cancer is soon expected to eclipse heart disease as California’s top cause of death. It’s estimated that this year alone 176,000 state residents will be diagnosed with cancer, with 60,000 dying from it.

16% of State’s Cancer Patients

The five UC cancer centers treat 16 percent of California cancer patients, and of them, 45 percent have late-stage cancers. Lippman said combining efforts aims to create efficiencies to drive down costs.

Past UC collaboration, he said, paved the way for the consortium.

As a recent example, he said a clinical trial on treating head and neck cancer — an abstract of which was recently presented to the European Society for Medical Oncology — got off the ground due to the UC cancer centers working together.

Securing funding and approval for clinical trials is easier as a group, he added.

“Companies and others really like the idea that they can work with one entity, with one voice, that would have approval and input from five major centers. They don’t have to negotiate with each one,” Lippman said.

The consortium also wants to make clinical trials much more widely available across the state, giving patients more choice and quickening the pace of enrollment.

In addition, the consortium will work on several areas of cancer diagnosis and treatment, as well as precision medicine, which is tailoring disease treatment to the individual, based on molecular diagnostic tests and therapeutics, among other things. The consortium is looking to pool data to improve precision medicine.

Another focus is population health science. The idea is to reduce the disparities in outcomes between people of various ethnic groups, due to genetic, environmental and socioeconomic factors.

A request to UC communications officials for documents governing the consortium was not returned by press time. It’s not clear whether a formal agreement is in place, but officials said rules spelling out matters such as the sharing of data and intellectual property will evolve over time.

Data Sharing

That said, some of the data-sharing matters have already been addressed.

“We have recently worked out a system to coordinate data sharing for approximately 15 million current and previous patients on a de-identified basis, which will be helpful on the research side of this collaboration,” said Elizabeth Fernandez, a senior public information representative with UC San Francisco. “The new consortium is very new, and any questions that may come up will be worked out.”

At its three-story, 290,000-square-foot building at UC San Diego Health in La Jolla, Moores Cancer Center houses cancer-related research laboratories, clinical trials, prevention and outreach programs and clinical care under one roof.

Its research encompasses genomics, oncogenic states and cancer network maps, as well as works on advanced treatments such as engineered NK cell therapy.

Other Partnerships to Continue

Locally, the Moores Cancer Center is no stranger to collaboration, including a partnership with the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute. Lippman said those partnerships will remain and may even be strengthened due to Moores having access to consortium data.

“I like to collaborate and bring the best minds and technology together for patients,” he said.

The additional members of the consortium include the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, the UC Irvine Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.

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