Comparative-effectiveness research reaps $16 million

Grand Opportunities grants from the National Institutes of Health enable Center, UW and Group Health scientists to evaluate cancer treatments, outcomes and costs
Dr. Scott Ramsey
Dr. Scott Ramsey, internist and health care economist, is leading a Hutchinson Center-based project that will lay the foundation for research to evaluate the cost-benefit ratio of various cancer genetic tests. Photo by Dean Forbes

Hutchinson Center researchers, along with colleagues at Group Health Research Institute and the University of Washington schools of Public Health and Pharmacy, have been selected to lead two collaborative projects worth $8 million, part of approximately $16 million in federal stimulus funding awarded locally for comparative-effectiveness research in cancer.

The grants establish Seattle as a national hub for conducting such research, which aims to objectively analyze cancer diagnostic tools, screening tests and treatments to determine the optimal choices based on balancing benefits—including effectiveness—and harms, such as cost.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dedicated $1.1 billion to fund high-impact ideas that lend themselves to short-term funding via the Grand Opportunities grants from the National Institutes of Health. The Seattle-led GO grants, each of which will fund two-year projects, account for approximately one-third of the National Cancer Institute’s first investment in the burgeoning field of cancer-related comparative-effectiveness research.

“Cancer is one of the highest areas of health care spending,” said Dr. Scott Ramsey of the Public Health Sciences Division, who is leading one of the projects. “We are spending multiple billions on cancer diagnostics and hundreds of millions on genetic tests, for example, but we’re not certain what we’re getting for all of that money. Are patients living longer? Are they living better quality lives? We just don’t have that answer.”

The projects involving Center researchers include:

  • Cancer genomics – The $4 million project based at the Hutchinson Center and led by Ramsey will fund the development of an infrastructure to support the “Center for Comparative Effectiveness Research in Cancer Genomics,” or CANCERGEN. This public-private consortium will design and conduct clinical trials of promising cancer genetic tests in collaboration with the Southwest Oncology Group. Researchers in the SWOG Statistical Center, co-located at the Center and at Cancer Research And Biostatistics, will design the statistical structure of the study and lead data management and analysis. CANCERGEN will develop the tools that help SWOG researchers determine which proposed trials will have the greatest clinical benefit for patients.

    “Part of CANCERGEN’s vision is to position SWOG as a national leader in cancer comparative-effectiveness research,” Ramsey said. “Realizing that vision will go a long way to help achieve the health care reform goal of making cancer treatment more effective and less expensive,” he said. Researchers at the UW School of Pharmacy and the Center for Medical Technology Policy in Baltimore will co-lead the effort.
  • Cancer diagnostics – A $4 million project based at the UW School of Public Health and led by Dr. Larry Kessler will fund research to evaluate the effectiveness of cancer diagnostics—from mammography and MRI to ultrasound, PET-CT, and blood- or tissue-based biomarkers—to determine the extent of disease and plan treatment.

    The Center will manage the study’s data. The project, called “Advancing Innovative Comparative Effectiveness Research in Cancer Diagnostics,” or ADVICE, will be co-led by investigators from the UW schools of Pharmacy and Medicine, Group Health and Veterans Affairs.

Read the full news release to learn more about the Center's GO grants.

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