Building a virtual cancer research organization

UMMS Affiliation

Meyers Primary Care Institute; Department of Medicine, Division of Geriatric Medicine

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Document Type


Medical Subject Headings

*Biomedical Research; Computer Communication Networks; Health Services Research; Humans; Medical Informatics; *Medical Oncology; National Institutes of Health (U.S.); *Neoplasms; Registries; United States


BACKGROUND: The Cancer Research Network (CRN) comprises the National Cancer Institute and 11 nonprofit research centers affiliated with integrated health care delivery systems. The CRN, a public/private partnership, fosters multisite collaborative research on cancer prevention, screening, treatment, survival, and palliation in diverse populations.

METHODS: The CRN's success hinges on producing innovative cancer research that likely would not have been developed by scientists working individually, and then translating those findings into clinical practice within multiple population laboratories. The CRN is a collaborative virtual research organization characterized by user-defined sharing among scientists and health care providers of data files as well as direct access to researchers, computers, software, data, research participants, and other resources. The CRN's research management Web site fosters a high-functioning virtual scientific community by publishing standardized data definitions, file specifications, and computer programs to support merging and analyzing data from multiple health care systems.

RESULTS: Seven major types of standardized data files developed to date include demographics, health plan eligibility, tumor registry, inpatient and ambulatory utilization, medication dispensing, laboratory tests, and imaging procedures; more will follow. Data standardization avoids rework, increases multisite data integrity, increases data security, generates shorter times from initial proposal concept to submission, and stimulates more frequent collaborations among scientists across multiple institutions.

CONCLUSIONS: The CRN research management Web site and associated standardized data files and procedures represent a quasi-public resource, and the CRN stands ready to collaborate with researchers from outside institutions in developing and conducting innovative public domain research.

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Citation: J Natl Cancer Inst Monogr. 2005;(35):12-25. Link to article on publisher's site

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