Sarah Canon Research Institute; overview and future

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Published: 23 Jun 2011
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Dee Anna Smith – Sarah Canon Research Institute, Nashville, USA
Dee Anna Smith, CEO of the Sarah Canon Research Institute, Nashville, USA talks to ecancertv at ASCO 2011, Chicago, about her institute's activities, trials underway, relationship with pharmaceutical companies, and partnerships in Europe. SCRI has 3000 patients in oncology trials every year, and is expanding to the UK with the help of University College London.

ASCO 2011 Annual Meeting, 3—7 June 2011, Chicago

Sarah Canon Research Institute; overview and future

Dee Anna Smith - Sarah Canon Research Institute, Nashville, USA

Dee Anna, welcome to You’re from Sarah Cannon Research Institute.


And your team is presenting fifty plus abstracts, including one in the late breaking abstracts. Now, you’re a sort of amalgam of different sets of skills. This is an interesting concept, tell us all about it. Sell it to us.

Sarah Cannon Research Institute, really a unique organisation. Our mission is advancing therapies for patients, and we have historically been in the US only. We are now in the UK, in Central London on Harley Street, 93 Harley Street, with our new phase I unit led by Doctor Arkenau, Toby Arkenau in the UK. We believe that our uniqueness in the industry is really our blend of scientific leadership along with access to large numbers of patients. We align with many, many practices in the US and now in the UK on Harley Street. And then lastly our ability to deliver data to pharma in a filable way. So we have physician leadership, who come up with creative and unique ideas for drug development. Our business objectives are very much aligned with those of pharma for advancing therapies for patients and because of our affiliations with physicians across the country, our ownership by Hospital Corporation of America, we do have access to large numbers of patients and we are able to put those patients on clinical trial, rapidly, we think, on trials that answer important questions. And then we are able to deliver data to our industry partners in a manner where they can file it if necessary, for their particular compound.

So all the trials are done with standard online forms and that sort of thing.


Do you do paper as well as online?

Yes, we do. We do a combination of both, just depending on the trial, and we obviously follow good clinical practice. Our systems are regulated, 21 CFR Part 11 compliant according to the FDA. Those types of systems for appropriate filable data.

So do you go to pharma and say, look, we’ve got a bunch of clinicians here, and they’ve got a question they want to ask, it’s come up, bottom up, which is I think a very healthy way to go, give us the drug? How do you do it?

A great question, our relationships with pharma are really strong, and we have many alliance partners within very large pharma and actually smaller biotechs. And so because of our scientific presence we have a very large scientific presence at ASCO, not only this year but historically, we’ve very, very strong relationships there. And so we meet frequently with those partners, typically on a quarterly basis where we collaborate scientifically. And many of those concepts in very important scientific and clinical questions come up. So we collaborate with our partners very early in the process from a compound development perspective. So we come together to say, what’s important to do, how can we advance that compound and through clinical trials, and how can we do that together? So really we certainly go to them with ideas, they come to us with ideas, but it’s done much more collaboratively because we recruit patients to clinical trials on such a broad scale. Really over 3,000 patients in oncology trials a year.

That’s very impressive. Moving into Europe, is slightly different. I can see the obvious success that you’ve already done, because I remember interviewing one of your colleagues last year and I think you had eighty abstracts at ASCO last year. The relationship between pharma and the medical profession is different in Europe and in the UK there’s a degree of hostility, not between pharma necessarily and physicians, but pharma and government. And that’s because there’s this body called the National Institute of Clinical Excellence; it’s got a bigger name now. And a lot of pharma leaders have told me that the UK is not the most attractive place to go to do trials, and that’s a major issue for the UK, the UK’s got to sort that. Do you think you can bring something to that?

We do. It’s been very interesting, just briefly how we entered the space, I think, is very unique. As I mentioned earlier Hospital Corporation of America is our predominant owner, our majority owner. They have a very large hospital presence in the UK which was an interesting way for us to come into the UK. We also are scientific colleagues with many of the esteemed consultants in the UK, and so really that triangle of relationships with consultants on the ground in the UK, the backing of our majority owner, and then our scientific, our track record so far, I think provides a unique opportunity for us to be able to come into the UK.

We have entered the UK in early phase, in drug development. We have a phase I unit there on Harley Street as I mentioned. So I think we are bringing access, because of all the things we have done, we are bringing access to the private sector drugs that maybe, and trials that maybe, they would not have had access to, historically. We’ve a very nice collaboration with the University College of London, and Dr Arkenau helps to lead both the Harley Street initiative as well as the University College of London phase I initiatives. So we really consider that one initiative, two locations between UCL and 93, and next door to our location is Leaders in Oncology Care, Doctors Harper, Slevin, Landau and Ellis, their practice. And so really that amalgamation of relationships is really what gives us a unique opportunity in the UK.

Pharma partners have recognised our track record, and they have recognised our ability to streamline that, and we think that track record paired with the scientific acumen of the consultants in the UK is really a match made in heaven.

So the next two, three, four, five years heading east? What are your ideas?

Yes, interesting. We want to solidify our platform in the UK; certainly India is a place which is of interest to us. It is fabulous to have the partnership with HCA because of their platform and footprint in the area, so we’ll see. We certainly have a big appetite for moving into other places in the east.

And your dissemination vehicle, have you got an partner somewhere in your consortium?

We don’t, but this is certainly a fantastic opportunity to entertain what a nice collaboration like that might be.

I think we need to do something about the lack of patients coming into clinical trials.

I agree.

It’s a universal, global problem and certainly something that keeps me awake at night.

Yes, we hope that if we can garner the support and the respect of the consultants in the UK, we know that if they want to give their patients access to new therapies, and we believe that we’re a unique mechanism to offer that to their patients.

Dee Anna, thank you very much indeed for giving us ten minutes of your time and have a good conference.

Thank you.