RSNA puts on an annual intensive week-long boot camp on clinical trial design. And I mean intensive -- while a Scottsdale resort in January sounds like fun, the 7AM-10PM daily schedule leaves little time for frivolity. The intended audience is junior faculty from around the world. Last year there were students from South America and Asia amongst the North American majority. The ticket to admission is a draft proposal for a clinical trial in radiology, and support from your department chair.
The program structure includes morning lectures by expert faculty covering all aspects of clinical trials, followed by afternoon small group sessions to craft each student’s protocol, supplemented by one-on-one sessions with faculty mentors. A section of the protocol template is assigned daily, to be submitted for review by the faculty every evening. By the end of the week, each student leaves with a complete protocol and consent form, ready for submission to an IRB and for funding.
About half a dozen students are assigned to each of several protocol working groups. Each group faculty consist of 3 senior academic radiologists and a statistician. My group is devoted to IR and Rad Onc trials; the faculty includes a rad onc chairman, a diagnostic radiologist with expertise in outcomes research, and an NCI Cooperative Group statistician.
Last year there there was only one IR trial (lung ablation); all the rest were rad onc. I am excited that for this coming year, all six trials are IR (some combined with XRT), and four of the six are IO. Topics span ablation, Y90, and chemoembolization.
The lack of good clinical trials in IO has haunted us for decades, so this surge in young faculty coming for intensive training is a fantastic harbinger for our future. The need for this training is glaring in the proposals that were submitted. While most invoked some kind of randomized comparison, not one stated a hypothesis, had a power calculation or sample size!
Young IO faculty should be encouraged to take this course. By building a cadre of clinical trialists, we can achieve the critical mass needed for an IO Cooperative Group and accomplish the quality of clinical research that will put us on par with our oncology colleagues.