FORWARD LOOK | BEYOND THE NEWS
Q&A WITH JOSEPH UNGER ON PUBLICLY
FUNDED CANCER RESEARCH
Your Tax Dollars at Work
Eighty years ago, Congress passed the National Cancer Act of 1937, which included federal funding to establish a National Cancer Institute (NCI) that
would carry out and coordinate clinical trials and fund
cancer research. About two decades later, the NCI established the Clinical Trials Cooperative Group Program, now
known as the National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN),
to create an infrastructure for implementing large trials.
The NCI’s 2017 budget is close to $5.4 billion; about $315
million goes to NCTN studies.
ACA Spurs Rise in Insurance Approval
Rates for Clinical Trials
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires private
insurers to cover costs associated with routine
care that occurs during a clinical trial. The law
went into effect Jan. 1, 2014. A study conducted
at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center found that after
passage of the ACA, insurance clearance for
clinical trial participation for the cancer center’s
privately insured patients climbed steadily, from
85 percent to 95 percent. Approvals also took
place more quickly.
LEARN MORE IN THE AUGUS T 2017 CLINICAL
Joseph Unger is a health services researcher at the Fred Hutchinson
Cancer Research Center in Seattle and a statistician at SWOG (formerly
known as the Southwest Oncology Group), one of the five NCTN cooperative groups. SWOG is made up of nearly 6,000 physician-researchers who
represent more than 950 institutions in the U.S. and six other countries.
Recently, Unger examined the impact SWOG’s studies have had on patient
survival. His findings, published online June 5, 2017, in JAMA Oncology,
showed, as he put it, that “the NCI’s investment in its cancer cooperative