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Clinical Trials Boot Camp empowers junior faculty

Clinical trials are the backbone of advances in medical treatment and essential to providing the best possible patient care. Although clinical trials are the start of exciting possibilities, designing them can be an uphill battle for new researchers.

Dr. Susanne Arnold, UK Markey Cancer Center’s Associate Director of Clinical Translation, saw the challenges that junior faculty face in creating new clinical studies, so she set out to equip researchers with the tools, supplemental training and support to succeed. In 2013, she established the Clinical Trials Boot Camp to help junior researchers develop their own investigatorinitiated clinical trials.

“New faculty have great ideas and enthusiasm, but they lack experience in creating effective clinical trials,” said Arnold. “We want to help bridge that gap with support from senior clinician scientists.”

A crash course on clinical trials

Clinical Trials Boot Camp is a four-week intensive training initiative that provides an overview of the clinical trials development process. Senior faculty researchers and staff share best practices for designing and conducting cancer clinical trials as well as information about Markey’s Shared Resources Facilities and the Protocol Review and Monitoring System. Trainees are tasked with developing a full research protocol of a clinical trial by the end of their training.

This crash course presents information essential to developing clinical trials that identify new treatment options, said Dr. Leigh Anne Faul, director of Markey’s Investigator-Initiated Trials Office.

“Research is for gladiators,” said Faul. “Clinicians, staff, researchers and senior executive leadership are wholly dedicated to the mission of reducing cancer mortality in Kentucky. Innovative clinical trials are key to achieving our goal. The boot camp highlights the necessary elements and best research design strategies, and then it centralizes these resources for new faculty to leverage in support of their ideas for new cancer treatments.”

The boot camp's impact

Since the program began in 2013, boot camp graduates have developed new clinical trials unique to Markey and enrolled more than 200 patients in clinical trials at the cancer center. Additionally, trainees have served as principal investigators on over 31 interventional therapeutic clinical trials following their training.

“These investigators take a leap of faith that their commitment to this process will result in novel therapies for their patients,” said Arnold. “It is truly the most rewarding thing to see anew faculty member develop something that will provide meaningful treatment options for their patients.”

New way forward

Building on the success of the Clinical Trials Boot Camp, a next-level course was created in 2018 to accelerate clinical translational research by Markey investigators.

Advanced Clinical Trials Boot Camp assists investigative teams led by more seasoned researchers to achieve national recognition for their clinical trials. This program allows senior researchers to present their formed concepts for trials to Markey leadership and research teams. After receiving feedback, these teams develop grant proposals for clinical research focused on scientific breakthroughs discovered at Markey.

As these training sessions progress with new participants, education about the logistics of designing and conducting treatment research is making a significant impact on Markey’s strategic portfolio of clinical trials.

Just as clinical trials are centered on the promise of innovation and forward thinking, Markey intends to infuse the development process with that same approach in order to reach for new heights in cancer prevention, detection and treatment.

“Clinical trials are how we make progress in cancer treatment,” said Arnold. “Providing Kentuckians with new treatment options through novel clinical trials will ultimately improve the health of those fighting cancer and hopefully cure more cancer in our state. It’s an investment of our cancer center’s future.”

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