Physician Champions: South Carolina Urology Group Endeavors to Keep Clinical Trials on Track

Shalmali Pal
Published: Thursday, Oct 18, 2012
Grand Stand Urology

The offices of Grand Stand Urology, one of four practices that joined forces to become Atlantic Urology Clinics in 2007.

Clinical trials that test the safety and efficacy of new treatments are essential in translating new knowledge into tangible benefits for patients with cancer. For many patients, clinical trials provide the best means for accessing new cancer therapies. However, the low rate of participation in clinical trials has become an ongoing challenge.

A number of national initiatives have addressed the problem, including the Institute of Medicine’s consensus report, A National Cancer Clinical Trials System for the 21st Century: Reinvigorating the NCI Cooperative Group Program. Recognizing that front-line oncologists are uniquely positioned to encourage patients to participate in clinical trials, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) launched an annual initiative to increase overall awareness and participation in clinical trials. Each year, ASCO’s Clinical Trials Participation awards recognize community-based oncology practices for their commitment to improving patient care through increased participation in clinical trials.

Because urologists are involved in all aspects of patient care—from diagnosis to follow-up care—their long-term relationships with patients make them the ideal champions to drive clinical trial participation.

Dr. Neal D. Shore

Neal D. Shore, MD

“The most important factor for successful development of a clinical trials program within a community-based practice is having what I call ‘physicians champions,’” said Neal D.Shore, MD, director of the Carolina Urologic Research Center (CURC) in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and managing partner of Atlantic Urology Clinics (AUC). “You must have physicians who are dedicated to making a clinical trials program successful.”

One of the missions of a physician champion is to bring clinical trials to life outside of academia or the pages of a journal. “At our practice, I’ve tried to change the thought process about trials,” Shore explained. “So when a patient comes in for an office visit, one of the first things a physician or nurse should be considering is, ‘How is this patient suitable for a clinical trial?’”

While a physician may be accustomed to ordering tests and procedures, and offering approved therapeutic pathways, a physician champion will also take the initiative to open or facilitate a discussion about opportunities to participate in ongoing clinical trials.

“It becomes a philosophical change in the discussion,” Shore said.

Given the real changes that medicine is facing under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it’s particularly important for community urologists to step up as guardians of clinical trials. As a trial center, AUC and CURC have made a mark in urology, having participated in 200 national and international clinical research studies. Shore, along with AUC chief executive officer Michael Asbill, talked with Urologists in Cancer Care about the practice and the future of urologic cancer trials.

The Foresight to Plan for the Future

AUC was created in 2007 through the consolidation of four different practices in South Carolina:

  • Grand Strand Urology
  • Coastal Urology
  • Adult and Pediatric Urology
  • Waccamaw Urology
The physician-run AUC now has a staff of a dozen board-certified urologists, a board-certified pathologist, and four mid-level providers who serve patients at 11 offices in three South Carolina counties. AUC offers onsite medical imaging, laboratory and pathology services, two ambulatory surgical centers, and its research arm at the CURC.

Dr. Michael Asbill

Michael Asbill

A 35-year veteran of healthcare administration, Asbill was drawn to AUC because he sought a “cutting edge group of physicians that had a vision for quality patient care; were very proactive in dealing with the changes in medicine; and had the foresight to plan for the future.”

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