Statewide clinical research partners gather for educational retreat at UF Health Cancer Center 

Led by the University of Florida Health Cancer Center, a network of seven affiliated health care institutions across the state is working to increase access to high-quality clinical trials and novel treatments for patients with all cancer types in every corner of Florida. 

Representatives from the UF Health Cancer Center’s Academic Research Consortium (ARC) network sites met in Gainesville for a retreat on May 10.

On May 10, representatives from the Cancer Center’s Academic Research Consortium (ARC) network sites met in Gainesville for a daylong retreat. The inaugural educational and research event provided practical education on the latest advancements in clinical research, fostered networking and facilitated two-way communication between UF and community oncology practices. It also provided a forum to assess priority studies and inspired ideas for new investigator-initiated studies relevant to the communities these practices serve. 

“We are increasing the capabilities of the ARC network, expanding opportunities for education and collaboration between all the sites,” said Timmy Guinn, M.Sc., CCRP, the UF Health Cancer Center’s ARC network coordinator. “By serving as a seamless point of communication, the UF Health Cancer Center is filling the gaps in knowledge and education to support a range of clinical research across Florida, which has a direct positive impact on the patients we serve.” 

The seven ARC sites blanket the state.

The ARC network was developed by the Cancer Center to improve the capacity for clinical research throughout the state through partnerships with community oncology providers and local health care systems. The seven ARC members — Broward Health Medical System, Broward Health North, Halifax Medical Center, Jupiter Medical Center, Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare, UF Health Jacksonville and the Watson Clinic — blanket the state, representing oncology practices in Central Florida, the Florida Panhandle, Northeast Florida and South Florida. 

Through the Cancer Center, all members are able to directly access trials for their patients at their centers. These trials include those sponsored by the National Cancer Institute’s National Clinical Trial Network (NCTN), including clinical trials developed by NRG Oncology, Southwest Oncology Group (SWOG), the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology and the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG-ACRIN). In addition, sites can also access select UF Health Cancer Center-sponsored clinical trials developed specifically from UF discoveries to meet the unique needs of Floridians with cancer.  

With more than 80 clinical research staff members and 200 cancer clinical faculty members, the Cancer Center has robust clinical research infrastructure in areas including clinical research education, regulatory compliance, data management and data integrity. Through the ARC network, the center leverages this infrastructure to accelerate innovation and progress for patients in Florida. 

With NCI designation, the Cancer Center is further bolstering this infrastructure, and the retreat provided a chance to share upcoming initiatives. Later this year, a new specialized clinical research training platform for ARC network research staff will launch, with the goal of increasing the consistency and quality of clinical research across the network, reinforcing and supplementing the local expertise and support present at these centers. The network will also launch an ARC listserv this summer to enhance consistent communications, highlight new educational and training opportunities, share best practices and provide trial updates. 

“This listserv will allow the sites to ask questions and receive advice that is applicable to their specific institution,” Guinn said. “We want to provide opportunities for the sites to share what has worked for them and troubleshoot with those facing similar challenges.” 

Also on the horizon is a trial-matching system that will allow the Cancer Center to review tumor registry data and help better match sites with available or upcoming trials for their patients. 

Paul Crispen speaking during the retreat.
Paul Crispen, M.D., discussed how developing investigator-initiated trials can advance research that benefits sites across the network.

Paul Crispen, M.D., associate director for clinical research at the Cancer Center, discussed how developing investigator-initiated trials can advance research that benefits sites across the network. One of the network’s main priorities is expanding sites’ abilities to open these trials, which facilitate the clinical translation of homegrown discoveries directly from UF laboratories to patients. This is in addition to the network accessing and conducting NCTN trials. The Cancer Center has about 350 active interventional trials and enrolls more than 2,500 patients annually to these trials. 

“We want to work with our partner sites to determine their greatest areas of needs for clinical trials and how the UF Health Cancer Center can help meet those needs,” Crispen said. “With the population we have in Florida, especially the large aging population, all our sites are primed for cancer research. That’s why this network is so important: It allows us to get better together to provide what our patients need.”  

The retreat allowed partner sites to learn about leading-edge data tools that are advancing clinical research. David DeRemer, Pharm.D., BCOP, FCCP, FHOPA, a clinical professor in the department of pharmacotherapy and translational research in the UF College of Pharmacy and associate director of the UF Health Cancer Center’s Experimental Therapeutics group, led a session on Slicer Dicer, a tool in EPIC that helps study teams analyze patient population data.  

This tool allows UF investigators and physicians to identify unique genetic aspects of a patient’s tumor and help match them with precision oncology treatment options. Educating ARC network members on how to similarly use this technology in their own centers to improve opportunities for their patients was well-received. 

Elena Nelson, CCRC, who manages the Clinical Research Office’s data management unit, provided an overview of RECIST, a tool for evaluating new cancer drugs in solid tumors. Danielle Geckler, CCRC, a study coordinator in the solid tumor unit, discussed tools for reporting adverse events. Clinical research compliance specialists Misty Hinson, ACRP-CP, and Megan Roberts, M.S., CCRC, also provided an overview of auditing clinical trials. Attendees also learned from Jennifer Woodard, M.P.H., R.N., CCRP, about statewide community health initiatives through the Cancer Center’s Office of Community Outreach and Engagement

Other sessions focused on how the ARC sites could access support from the Cancer Center. Kathryn Hitchcock, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor in the department of radiation oncology and the center’s principal investigator for NCTN trials, discussed mutual aid in the ARC network and provided opportunities for attendees to share their feedback on how to improve physician communication.   

By pooling contacts, the network works to ensure physicians know about clinical research being conducted at other sites that might benefit their patients. “Our goal is to make sure everyone has access to clinical research regardless of where they live,” Hitchcock said.   

The event concluded with Q&A discussions and tours of the UF Health campus, clinical and research facilities. This retreat will continue on an annual basis. Community practices interested in joining the ARC Network or learning more about the resources or trials available are encouraged to contact the UF Health Cancer Center’s Clinical Research Office at

NCI Cancer Center badge