August 16, 2010

Johns Hopkins establishes new clinical research network

The Johns Hopkins Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, in collaboration with Anne Arundel Health System and the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, has established a new network of academic and community-based clinical researchers, the Johns Hopkins Clinical Research Network. The JHCRN, which will provide new opportunities for research collaborations, is designed to accelerate the transfer of new diagnostic, treatment and disease-prevention advances from the research arena to patient care.

The JHCRN creates a bridge for research between Johns Hopkins and community-based medical centers by linking physician-scientists and staff from the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions with community-based medical centers in the region. The network, which will ultimately have additional member institutions, will serve several purposes, the most important of which is to make clinical trials available to patients who may not ordinarily have access to them.

“The JHCRN is a unique research resource that increases patient access to innovative therapies and outcomes research in their own local communities. It also empowers physicians to design and conduct a broad array of research projects relevant to their communities,” said Charles M. Balch, JHCRN director and professor of surgery and oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “It will be the premier network of affiliated medical institutions which carries out efficient, collaborative clinical research to achieve high-quality innovative patient care. I am very impressed with the commitment and excellence of the clinical trials enterprise at AAHS and GBMC.”

“What we do in medicine has to be evidence-based,” said Gary Cohen, medical director of the Greater Baltimore Medical Center’s Sandra & Malcolm Berman Cancer Institute. “I firmly believe that clinical trials are the basic building blocks of all progress in medicine. However, most patients are treated in community hospitals, not at research centers, so it’s crucial that these community hospitals are involved in clinical research.”

The JHCRN directly addresses the many complexities of conducting multisite and multi-institutional trials by providing investigators with a larger patient pool and a seamless platform that uses common research protocols. The goal of the network is to speed the approval of new trials while ensuring careful oversight of patient safety. Rapid start-up and timely completion of research studies, aided by widespread access to clinical trials, will make promising therapies available for patient use more quickly.

The network was established through an initial agreement with charter affiliate Anne Arundel Health System in 2009. This early collaboration was instrumental in clearing many of the organizational and legal barriers to shared research, a process that continues with the inclusion of newer affiliate GBMC. The initial focus of the JHCRN will be on expanding cancer-related clinical trials (including medical, surgical and radiation therapy aspects of cancer treatment) and diabetes and surgical studies. Future collaborations will include a wide range of research areas, including intensive care; cardiovascular, neuropsychiatric, brain and spine diseases; and radiology and nuclear medicine studies.

The JHCRN is a program of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, which is a part of a national consortium aimed at transforming how clinical and translational research is conducted at academic health centers around the country.

“As part of the ICTR, the JHCRN will develop new and improved tools for analyzing research data and managing clinical trials. It will also support outreach to underserved populations and work with local community and advocacy organizations and health care providers while forging new partnerships with private and public health care organizations,” said Daniel E. Ford, vice dean for clinical investigation for Johns Hopkins Medicine and ICTR director. “This level of collaboration between an academic medical center and community-based research institutions is unprecedented in the region and will bring a wide array of benefits to both patients and investigators.”

Network researchers from participating hospitals will use a centralized data system to coordinate information from diverse information technology and electronic medical records sources. Clinical research methodologies, data management, research reporting documentation, patient consent forms and quality- and safety-control criteria will be standardized. With this uniformity, network hospitals can better develop and coordinate their own clinical research activities or joint clinical trials with other JHCRN institutions.

“The bottom line is that this affiliation expands the scope of clinical research options that we can offer patients in our communities,” said Joe Moser, senior vice president for medical affairs at the Anne Arundel Medical Center and head of the health system’s Research Institute. “It will create opportunities for our patients who might not otherwise have access to clinical trials. They will be the ultimate beneficiaries of the research network.”

For more information about the Johns Hopkins Clinical Research Network, go to