Report from ACRIN: Network’s five-year plan aims to strengthen core labs and expand funding sources

October 3, 2007

Dr. Bruce Hillman, a founding force behind the American College of Radiology Imaging Network, used the keynote speech at ACRIN’s 2007 fall meeting Sept. 28 to outline the group’s upcoming reorganization and to review its history during his nine years as chair. He plans to step down in December.

Dr. Bruce Hillman, a founding force behind the American College of Radiology Imaging Network, used the keynote speech at ACRIN's 2007 fall meeting Sept. 28 to outline the group's upcoming reorganization and to review its history during his nine years as chair. He plans to step down in December.Hillman offered a glimpse of what lies ahead for the organization under the new leadership of Dr. Mitch Schnall, chair designate, and Dr. Constantine Gatsonis, director of ACRIN's Biostatistics Center. Their new five-year plan includes, among other goals, strengthening both the infrastructure and role of the network's core laboratories. The core laboratories were created to help develop and support imaging clinical trials, standardize research methodologies, and share expertise with the medical community at large. ACRIN operates the PET Core Laboratory, which supports, for example, the ACRIN trial 6678 (FDG-PET/CT as a predictive marker of tumor response and patient outcome). The organization has recently inaugurated its MRI/CT Core Laboratory, and the plan contemplates expanding core laboratory expertise to other imaging modalities.

Hillman also announced plans to:

  • establish an experimental imaging sciences committee that will be tasked with preparing trials needed to translate emerging imaging technologies into clinical applications
  • increase the involvement of oncologists through a newly formed committee on oncology
  • appoint disease-site chairs to the steering committee for the first time in ACRIN's history
  • develop real-time tracking of publications for accountability purposes

ACRIN will no longer rely on the National Cancer Institute as its sole funding source, he said.

Two new initiatives will diversify funding sources for future trials. The ACRIN Fund for Imaging Innovation has received about $7 million to date in pledges from the American College of Radiology, industry, and individual donors. The for-profit ACR Image Metrix will offer research services to pharmaceutical and device manufacturers seeking FDA approval for their products. Metrix signed its first contract with an undisclosed company in August."The first check for $105,000 is just a piece of what the total contract calls for," Hillman said. "But money in the bank is always good."Hillman recounted achievements that benefited cancer diagnosis and treatment.ACRIN was the first and remains the only radiology-oriented, cooperative research network that collaborates with the National Institutes of Health to channel federal funds into research projects. The ACR-sponsored group was organized to address criticisms against the quality of imaging-related research performed before its inception. It attempted to answer radiology's critics through its involvement with large population, prospective multicenter clinical trials that provided scientifically valid answers concerning the clinical efficacy of emerging imaging technologies. It also served as a conduit of substantial NCI funds into imaging research.Hillman spoke candidly about how missteps can help build an organization from the ground up."We thought we understood what ACRIN should become. We had the vision. But we had no idea of how to get there," he said. Getting off the ground was not an easy task. Continuing improvements in management, accounting, and advocacy eventually helped ACRIN become strong, set and pursue a clinical imaging agenda, and build firm partnerships, Hillman said. ACRIN became the first and only all-electronic network conducting multicenter clinical trials. It has developed an impressive archive containing more than 18 million images that are now used for secondary research or product development. The organization made possible the use of imaging as an end point in cancer therapy trials and ultimately gave life to a distinct imaging research community, Hillman said. "ACRIN became a force. We are well recognized, and through this recognition, people now understand the importance of imaging in cancer therapy," he said.For more information from the Diagnostic Imaging archives:

Breast ultrasound trades specificity for higher detection rate than mammography

CT colonography matches gold standard in eagerly awaited ACRIN trial results

ACR launches research outsourcing firm

PET registry boosts coverage outlook for rare cancers