University of Iowa researchers receive funding to study targeted cancer therapies

Published on September 21, 2017

DNA strandsFaculty from the Greater Plains Collaborative Iowa Research Center, located in the University of Iowa (UI) Department of Epidemiology’s Health Effectiveness Research Center in collaboration with the UI Institute for Clinical and Translational Science Biomedical Informatics Core, have received funding from PCORnet, the National Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network, to perform rapid-cycle research on cancer molecular targeted therapies. The UI will receive $235,000 of the total $1 million award for this nine-site collaborative study.

Led by co-principal investigators Elizabeth Chrischilles, professor of epidemiology and Pomerantz Chair in Public Health at the University of Iowa, and Russ Waitman, professor of internal medicine, director of medical informatics, and associate vice chancellor for enterprise analytics at the University of Kansas Medical Center, the primary goal of the project is to examine the patterns of use of molecular biomarkers and associated targeted cancer therapies for patients with invasive solid tumors.

Other goals include documenting the frequency of use of targeted therapy agents for each cancer, the frequency of testing prior to use of these agents, the concordance between testing results and choices of therapies, and the frequency with which these therapies are used for approved indications vs. “off-label.”

This project is also designed to test and expand the capacity of PCORnet to describe the details of cancer pathology, test results, cancer treatment, and outcomes. It is intended to inform key stakeholder groups, particularly payers, on current patterns of care and to assess capacity for future comparative outcomes studies, both observational and randomized.

Data for tests and therapies will come from the clinical data warehouses derived from electronic health records at each participating site. These data are coded consistently across sites using the PCORnet Common Data Model (CDM). Furthermore, each site will link their CDM tables to data from their respective tumor registries. Tumor registry tables include data for tumor characteristics, demographics, and first course of treatment. They are also coded consistently across sites using standards from the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries.

The nine participating sites include University of Florida Health; Vanderbilt University Medical Center; Medical University of South Carolina; University of Iowa; University of Kansas Medical Center; University of Texas, Southwestern; Marshfield Clinic; University of Minnesota; and University of Nebraska Medical Center.

These sites represent three PCORnet Clinical Data Research Networks (OneFlorida, Mid-South CDRN, and the Greater Plains Collaborative) and include four National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers (the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center at Vanderbilt University, the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa, the Masonic Cancer Center at the University of Minnesota, and the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at University of Texas, Southwestern). The ABOUT (American BRCA Outcomes and Utilization of Testing) Patient-Powered Research Network is also participating to provide vital patient input at all stages of this research project.

The Greater Plains Collaborative (http://gpcnetwork.org/) is a network of 12 leading medical centers in 8 states committed to a shared vision of improving health care delivery through ongoing learning, adoption of evidence-based practices, and active research dissemination. The University of Iowa leads the cancer research agenda for the network in collaboration with the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center Population Research Core.

PCORnet is an innovative initiative funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). PCORnet is a large, highly representative, national “network of networks” that collects data routinely gathered in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, doctors’ offices, and community clinics.  By engaging a variety of stakeholders – patients, families, providers, and researchers – PCORnet empowers individuals and organizations to use this data to answer practical questions that help patients, clinicians, and other stakeholders make informed health care decisions.