Minnesota Cancer Clinical Trials Network Celebrates 500 Enrollment Milestone

At the end of 2020, the Minnesota Cancer Clinical Trials Network (MNCCTN) celebrated the milestone of enrolling more than 500 participants into cancer clinical studies across Greater Minnesota. 

Since the network's inception in July 2017, MNCCTN partners have opened several cancer clinical studies throughout Greater Minnesota in prevention, symptom management, and treatment and have facilitated access to an additional 50+ non-MNCCTN trials. These trials have involved colorectal, lung, breast, blood, prostate, and other cancers.

“Enrolling more than 500 Greater Minnesotans is a great success for the network,” MNCCTN Senior Manager Marie L. Rahne, MBA, said. “It is very exciting and gratifying for our partners, sites, and patients to see the tangible results of MNCCTN’s efforts. It furthers our drive to expand access to even more sites and even more people in the years to come.” 

By combining efforts with partner organizations and sites, MNCCTN has created new opportunities for patients to engage in research at 22 sites that had previously not been able to offer their patients access to cancer clinical trials. MNCCTN removes barriers associated with access to cancer clinical trials, such as traveling far distances, transportation costs, time away from work, need for childcare, and more by bringing cancer clinical trials directly to these community sites. As a result, more than 500 Minnesotans have participated in studies they would not have had access to previously. This is important not only for the individuals participating in research but future patients as well. The standard of care today for cancer patients is the direct result of past clinical trials. 

In addition to bringing clinical trials to patients, MNCCTN has created new opportunities for sites and staff and has developed a culture of research at MNCCTN sites. The network provides funding, training, and collaboration for new and existing site staff, such as study coordinators, research nurses, regulatory staff, administrative staff, and more. This provides career opportunities and professional development for individuals in rural Minnesota interested in working in research who may not have had opportunities to work in this area before. 

MNCCTN funding also provided new infrastructure at sites to make clinical trials possible, such as lab and pharmacy freezers and other equipment. All these efforts also help to engage other site staff and patients to learn about and become more familiar with research as a part of health care.

The achievement of this huge milestone would not have been possible without the earnest partnership of five of the state’s largest health care organizations working together to expand access to cancer clinical trials. These organizations include Essentia Health, M Health Fairview, Mayo Clinic Health System, Metro-Minnesota Community Oncology Research Consortium (MMCORC), and Sanford Health, as well as research partners Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, and the Hormel Institute. 

As we look toward the future, MNCCTN is focused on continuing to develop new clinical trials at sites and cultivating strong partnerships with existing sites, as well as expanding to more sites and to serve underserved populations as well. In doing so, the network will engage with more patients, researchers, and site staff to enroll as many Minnesotans onto clinical trials as possible. The network also aims to educate more Minnesotans on clinical trials, why they are an important treatment option, and how to break down barriers to participating in research.

The Minnesota Cancer Clinical Trials Network (MNCCTN) is a cancer clinical trials network with locations across Minnesota, funded by the Minnesota legislature as part of the University of Minnesota's overall MnDRIVE Strategic Investment Request. Led by the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, MNCCTN partner organizations aim to improve cancer outcomes for all Minnesotans through greater access to cancer clinical trials in prevention and treatment.