And by speeding up patient enrollment in studies, officials predict that the program will also speed up gaining the answers to treatment questions.
Officials at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) note in a statement that "relatively few patients have the chance to participate in these studies. A primary reason is that, traditionally, only physicians who are members of NCI Cooperative Groups have the opportunity to place patients on large-scale cancer clinical trials."
The Expanded Participation Project seeks to extend "clinical trials privileges to other qualified oncologists, offering them a menu of important studies with simplified administration and direct reimbursement for the additional time and effort involved in enrolling patients and collecting research data." Physicians will receive $1,500 per patient to cover the additional time and costs.
In addition, use of an Internet-based patient information system is expected to cut down time spent on paperwork that is a necessary part of patient participation in such studies.
Project officer Dr. Richard S. Ungerleider of the National Cancer Institute pointed out in the statement that although traditional programs "have contributed enormously" to cancer research, "97% of US cancer patients still never participate in a study."
By speeding up patient enrollment in studies, the new program "will speed answers to important treatment questions and quicken advances in cancer care," added Ungerleider.
NCI says that 16 clinical studies of lung, breast, prostate and colon cancer are open to Expanded Participation Project physicians. That number will be increased throughout the year.