Since its launch in 2018, the Minnesota Cancer Clinical Trials Network (MNCCTN), has enrolled more than 350 Minnesotans on prevention, symptom management, and cancer treatment protocols near their homes in Greater Minnesota. The network, funded by the Minnesota legislature as part of the University of Minnesota's MnDRIVE Program, is a partnership between several of the state’s largest healthcare systems to bring cutting-edge cancer clinical trials closer to home for more Minnesotans.
MNCCTN has helped 18 partner sites to establish and maintain the necessary infrastructure to offer cancer clinical trials to their patients who previously did not have access to clinical research. These partners include: Masonic Cancer Center at the University of Minnesota, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, the Hormel Institute, and three National Community Oncology Research Programs (Essentia Health, Metro-Minnesota Community Oncology Research Consortium, and Sanford Health).
“The past two years of our program have been a great success and a learning experience,” Marie L. Rahne, MBA, Senior Manager of MNCCTN, said. “Our partners and sites have worked hard to bring clinical trial access to people across Minnesota. We all really believe in the value of clinical research and its positive impacts on people’s lives by advancing cancer care and prevention.”
In addition to improving access to the latest in clinical research, the MNCCTN has also supported economic growth initiatives by creating seven jobs at the administrative hub, engaged 24 physicians and investigators, supported some of the effort of 24 research coordinators and nurses, contracted with 2 laboratory and pharmacy staff, and funded part of the salaries of 31 regulatory and administrative staff. MNCCTN support has also included facilities upgrades, equipment purchases such as freezers and centrifuges, and training and mentoring of staff to learn how to conduct clinical research.
MNCCTN participants have enrolled onto 41 unique clinical trials. These trials include both MNCCTN managed trials from research partners, the Masonic Cancer Center at the University of Minnesota, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, and the Hormel Institute, as well as trials from National Community Oncology Research Programs, a National Cancer Institute-funded program delivering access to national trials. Actively enrolling sites include: Albert Lea, Aitkin, Austin, Cambridge, Deer River, Detroit Lakes, Fosston, Grand Rapids, Hibbing (2), Mankato, Monticello, Park Rapids, Princeton, Sandstone, Thief River Falls, Virginia, and Worthington. The 19th site, in Ortonville, is slated to open in early 2020 and sites 20 through 27 are planned to open by the end of 2021.
Another element of MNCCTN’s success has been educating Minnesotans about clinical trials and the opportunities available to cancer patients in their local communities. MNCCTN staff and partner organizations have sought out opportunities to connect with Minnesotans, such as hosting interactive education tables at events such as FarmFest, the Minnesota State Fair, Clinical Trials Day at the University of Minnesota, and health and wellness fairs statewide.
MNCCTN also collaborated with Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) to create a public service announcement educational video about clinical trials participation. The video was aired throughout Minnesota on public television stations and was viewed thousands of times on YouTube. The video has educated countless Minnesotans about research and what it’s really like to participate in a clinical trial.
“Looking ahead, MNCCTN will continue to focus on opening up new sites and expanding access, as well as increasing the number and types of trials available at these sites,” Rahne said. “We hope to further engage researchers at the University of Minnesota and other research partners to develop studies specifically tailored to challenges in Greater Minnesota and continue to help build a culture of comfort with research at sites and around the state.”