1. Digiulio, Sarah

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The Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) and the American College of Radiology Imaging Network (ACRIN) officially merged last month, with the leaderships of both NCI-sponsored cooperative groups approving the constitution to officially merge into a single organization.

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The decision for the union, as well as for the new combinations of the other clinical trials groups, goes back to the recommendation early last year in response to the Institution of Medicine's 2010 report calling for the restructuring of the NCI's Clinical Trials Cooperative Group Program (OT, 5/10/10), and the subsequent announcement by the NCI that the groups should reorganize themselves into a maximum of four adult groups and one pediatric one (OT, 4/10/11).


A news release notes that the new ECOG-ACRIN resources include a team of 6,000 multidisciplinary physicians, scientists, nurses, research associates, statisticians, biomedical information technologists, and patient advocates across approximately 650 member institutions.


The merger integrates the imaging capabilities and health outcomes, economic, and comparative effectiveness research of the ACRIN group with the information technology programs and early detection, prevention, and symptom management research of the ECOG group to pursue a more comprehensive menu of breast cancer research, including promising new avenues.

ECOG-ACRINs new Grou... - Click to enlarge in new windowECOG-ACRIN's new Group Co-Chairs MITCHELL L. SCHNALL, MD, PHD (left), and ROBERT L. COMIS, MD

"There was a really exciting scientific opportunity and joint vision," ECOG-ACRIN Co-Chair Mitchell L. Schnall, MD, PhD, former ACRIN Group Chair, said in a telephone interview. "We were driven by the fact that we would work together to develop a novel biomarker and science-based program that had breast cancer involved-all the way from prevention and screening through the treatment of metastatic disease. This was a joint no-brainer from our perspective that this is where we needed to be."


Added Robert L. Comis, MD, ECOG-ACRIN's other Co-Chair and former ECOG Chair, "We had very complementary missions-particularly in this age where bio-marker research is going to be the driving force. ACRIN's imaging resources greatly bolster research opportunities previously available to ECOG. Bringing our programs together really informs our therapeutic-oriented research, as well as our cancer-control research. If you look across the board, it gives us the whole cancer care continuum from early detection all the way to treatment and survivorship."


The reorganization also allows the group to compete for the NCI's new group grant funding, which begins later this year. And, the merger integrates outside funding sources. "Combined, we have a number of funding streams both from the NCI, and from industry. So once again, it extends our breadth and depth in regards to both the public and private venues," Comis said.