3 Key Trends in Cancer Center Performance

Dr. Wendy Tate
Director, Analytics, Forte
October 11th, 2018

Last week, members of the Forte team attended the 2018 Association of American Cancer Institutes/Cancer Centers Administrators Forum (AACI/CCAF) Annual Meeting in Chicago. The annual meeting brings together cancer center directors and administrators from leading research institutions across the country. The conference’s objective is to help these organizations share best practices and discuss strategies for overcoming common challenges with their peers.

This year, Forte joined the conversation with our Cancer Center Benchmarks Report, an analysis of key data trends affecting cancer centers. While cancer centers may have an idea of their individual performances, this report took on the bigger question of how cancer centers are performing as a whole. Using Forte Benchmarks, an award-winning comparative analytics tool, the report analyzes data from 24 NCI-designated cancer centers across the country from 2013-2017. The report analyzes aggregate data for open protocol and accrual numbers, research portfolio composition, activation timelines and sponsor metrics. We examined the data and hypothesized three key data trends cancer centers should know.

Key Trend #1: Prioritizing Institutional Studies

Overall, data trends analyzed in this report demonstrated cancer centers’ continued dedication and prioritization of their own institutional studies over industry and other types of studies in their research portfolio. Since the NCI evaluates cancer centers for designation and grant funding based on their own institutional research, this focus is crucial to an organization’s success.

Over the last five years, the proportion of industry studies at organizations has gone up, potentially due to less federal funding available. However, the percentage of research portfolios dedicated to institutional studies has remained the same, indicating that while priorities are shifting, they are not shifting away from institutional research.

Accrual data also points to a continued dedication to institutional research. Accruals per organization have been on the rise for both industry and institutional studies. Notably, institutional accruals make up nearly the same percentage of the average center’s accruals as industry accruals, despite only accounting for about 25% as many studies as industry trials. Average accrual per protocol is also higher for a cancer center’s institutional trials, and has been increasing in recent years, emphasizing the importance of an organizations’ own science.

Key Trend 2: Greater Efficiencies in Industry Studies

While cancer centers are putting a greater emphasis on their institutional studies, industry studies are still proving to be more efficient in a number of areas. Two areas in which industry studies have demonstrated higher efficiency than institutional studies are timeliness in closing zero-accruing studies and activating studies.

On average, over 70% of zero-accruing industry studies close in 12 months or fewer, compared to only about 40% of institutional studies. Zero-accruing industry studies closing faster means fewer wasted resources. Additionally, median industry studies activate 30 days faster than institutional studies. Sub-process timelines like PRMC review and budget approvals for industry trials are also becoming shorter, but there is still work to be done to activate studies more quickly.

Key Trend 3: Activation Timelines: Challenges and Opportunities

The activation lifecycle for both industry and institutional trials has been steadily increasing since 2013. The median difference between activation times for institutional and industry studies is about 30 days. However, when looking at the 25th percentile of study activation timelines, industry and institutional studies activate at similar rates, indicating an opportunity for improvement in narrowing activation timeline gaps.

Sub-process timelines, including PRMC review and budget approval, have been trending shorter, representing good progress toward activating studies faster. However, PRMC review times for institutional studies still have not achieved the same turnaround times as industry studies. Additionally, while median budget approval timelines have improved, timelines for the 25th percentile have stagnated. Both are still trending upwards of 60 days, and reveal an opportunity for improvement.

See More Key Trends

When cancer centers are discussing common challenges in clinical research and considering potential solutions, it’s important to know how the industry is performing as a whole and how an individual cancer center stacks up. Knowing your cancer center’s current status in comparison with your peers is the first step toward improvement. Download the full Cancer Center Benchmarks Report and see the data for yourself here.

Are you ready to see how your cancer center compares on key performance metrics? OnCore customers can use Benchmarks at no cost, join relevant community comparison groups and add their center’s anonymized data to the aggregate to see how their performance measures up. Learn more about Forte Benchmarks.

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