John Olson imageBy: John Olson, MD, PhD
Campbell & Jeanette Plugge Professor and Vice Chair of Surgery, University of Maryland School of Medicine
Associate Director, UMGCCC 
Head, University of Maryland Cancer Network

This past month, Siegel et al. published “Cancer Statistics, 2018,” The American Cancer Society’s annual report of cancer incidence, mortality, and survival in the United States.1Once again, the data show a decline in cancer mortality driven largely by improved outcomes for patients with lung, female breast, prostate and colorectal cancer. The decline in cancer mortality, 32% in men and 23% in women since 1990-91, translates to approximately 2,378,600 fewer cancer deaths over this time period. While much of the improvement in cancer mortality is due to reductions in smoking, it is undeniable that a significant contribution has been made by advances in early detection and treatment. These advances have been the direct result of our nation’s investment in cancer clinical trials.

Advancing cancer care through clinical trials is a core mission of the University of Maryland Cancer Network (UMCN). Our network of cancer centers, led by the University of Maryland Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center (UMGCCC), is committed to bring innovative clinical trials from both the UMGCCC and the National Cancer Institute's (NCI) National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN) to our Maryland citizens. Our current portfolio of trials exceeds 150 across all cancer types and can be readily accessed on our website.

The NCI considers the UMCN a significant resource to bring clinical research opportunities to the over 7,000 cancer patients treated in our network each year. The potential of our network to advance clinical research was a significant contributing factor in the NCI’s decision to promote our cancer center to comprehensive status. Accordingly, they have given us an ambitious goal to enroll 10% of our UMCN cancer patients in therapeutic clinical trials over the next five years.

Since the founding of the UMCN in late 2015, we have made significant progress in developing the infrastructure as well as a culture of clinical investigation in our UMCN programs. Our progress has been in large part due to the tireless efforts of our UMCN research teams led by Theresa "Tess" Cummings at the UMGCCC. Under Tess's leadership, we have improved communication of trial opportunities, provided monthly feedback of clinical trial accrual, reduced regulatory burden through use of the Maryland IRB, and improved training of clinical investigators and research staff. We are now beginning to see the results of this hard work. This past year in particular we have made substantial progress in clinical trial accrual in the UMCN, most notably at both the Tate and Kaufman Cancer Centers. Across all clinical trial types (treatment and observational) the UMCN trial enrollment currently is 26%; however, our treatment trial accrual while growing, still falls well short of our 10% goal (Table 1). We must continue to make clinical trials a priority in our daily work!

Table 1: UMCN Treatment Trial Accrual

Site 2017
  Accruals Cases* % enrolled
UMGCCC@UMMC 166 1,789 9.2
KCC@UM-UCH 32 967 3.3
TCC@UM-BWMC 27 1,081 3
CI@UM-SJMC 9 1,023 0.8
UMCN 234 4,860 5

*estimates based on CY2016 registry data and CY2017 treatment trial enrollment

KCC – Kaufman Cancer Center at Upper Chesapeake Health System; TCC – Tate Cancer Center at Baltimore Washington Medical Center; CI – Cancer Institute at St. Joseph Medical Center


  • Siegel RL, Miller KD, Jemal A. Cancer statistics, 2018. CA Cancer J Clin 2018;68:7-30.