The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas has awarded the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston a $4.8 million grant to improve cancer data systems to meet one of five fundamental goals set by  the Texas Cancer Plan. UTMB is the lead institution in the multidisciplinary Comparative Effectiveness Research on Cancer in Texas consortium, which includes the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, the University of Texas School of Public Health, Rice University, Baylor College of Medicine and the Texas Cancer Registry.

This grant covers three years with the possibility of renewal for an additional two years valued at $3.1 million, said principal investigator Dr. James Goodwin, director of UTMB’s Sealy Center on Aging. 

The CERCIT consortium has a goal of linking the Texas Cancer Registry with cancer data from Medicaid, Medicare and private insurers to create a comprehensive source of data that can be used by investigators and policy makers. 

“Currently there is no good source of information on cancer care in Texas,” Goodwin said. “The Texas Cancer Registry provides some information on initial treatment, but it is incomplete with respect to chemotherapy and outpatient treatments, and it does not include information on screening, post-treatment surveillance, or supportive care.” 

Goodwin sees the consortium delving into areas that largely have been ignored, such as the misallocation of health care resources, overuse of some tests and treatments, variations in health care spending by geographic location and health disparities. The consortium will also train the next generation of investigators who focus on cancer outcomes and effectiveness. 

“We aim to change the discussion to one that includes better allocation of existing resources as a potential policy response to the challenge of reducing disparities in health care,” he said. 

In addition to serving as the lead institution in the consortium, UTMB will be home to the data management, training and knowledge dissemination functions and two of four research projects. The other two are based at MD Anderson. The projects will study use of screening tests for several types of cancer; quality of cancer care and whether specific patients, cancer types or locations are at risk for substandard therapy; assessment of post-treatment monitoring; and measurement of supportive care available to Texas cancer patients. 

Ten of the consortium’s 22 investigators are at UTMB. They are Catherine D. Cooksley, Karl Eschbach, Jean Freeman, Yong-Fang Kuo, Taylor Riall, Kenneth Ottenbacher, Kristin Sheffield, Alai Tan and Dong Zhang. 

“The consortium will answer many questions about the quality of cancer care that Texans receive and to identify areas where suboptimal care is responsible for poor outcomes,” Goodwin said. “What we learn will help shape health care policy in Texas and nationally.”