Learn About Cancer Clinical Trials
An Overview of the Cooperative Group System
The vast majority of cancer research conducted in the United States is carried
out in cancer centers, cancer cooperative groups, and community clinical
oncology programs. Cancer cooperative groups are networks of investigators and
institutions located in academic centers and the community that work together
to conduct clinical cancer research. More than half of the cancer clinical
trials currently underway are being conducted by cancer cooperative groups.
The cooperative group system, together with the work of cancer
centers throughout the United States, has a history of discovery and
development that is longer-lived and more successful than any other in cancer
research or medicine.
Since its beginnings in the 1950s, the cancer cooperative group system has
produced a number of major advances in cancer clinical care. These advances
have been possible only because of the contribution of the more than 500,000
patients who have been treated in the cooperative group framework of quality
control and quality assurance.
For instance, evidence and knowledge gained from cancer cooperative group
Resulted in long-term survival and cures in the majority of
pediatric cancer cases.
Established the efficacy of less-invasive treatments for
breast cancer, such as lumpectomy and chemotherapy, resulting in reduced use of
Established Taxol as a premier treatment for ovarian cancer
and metastatic non-small cell lung cancer.
Demonstrated treatment using alpha 2b interferon as the
first, and currently only, effective adjuvant treatment for melanoma.
Showed that chemotherapy combined with radiation therapy
significantly increased three and seven year survival in non-small cell lung
Established combined chemotherapy and radiation as the most
effective treatment of advanced cervical cancer.
Activities in the cancer cooperative groups are largely funded as federal
programs through the National Cancer Institute (NCI), one of 25 institutes and
centers in the National Institutes of Health.
The modern cooperative groups trace their beginning to the
mid-1950s, when a small group of hospitals along the East Coast banded together
to conduct collaborative research on childhood acute leukemia. The system
proved to be such a successful platform that it was adopted by the NCI.
More than 1500 institutions and thousands of professionals participate in cancer
cooperative group trials and activities. Together these members enroll more
than 20,000 patients on cancer clinical trials each year and account for
approximately 60 percent of all patients enrolled each year in cancer clinical
trials in the United States.
In 1998, seven of the cooperative groups established the
Coalition of Cancer Cooperative Groups, Inc., to coordinate efforts to expand
the enrollment of patients in trials. To learn more, visit